Members of two local churches traveled to Madisonville, Kentucky in mid-May to help with disaster relief caused by a late-season tornado in December.
Libby Wilcox, among the volunteers, said six members of Bluemont Presbyterian Church and Mayberry Presbyterian Church, two rock churches along the Blue Ridge Parkway, decided to make the trip after seeing the devastation.
“We just wanted to go help, even though we’re all 70-something years old,” she said.
Wilcox said she knew firsthand the help that was needed. She has done mission work before after tornados, hurricanes, and other natural disasters.
“The group that went was retired, and I thought ‘why should we sit here doing nothing and watching it on TV.’ So, we decided to go, and we did,” she said.
At the service, she announced the plan to go to Kentucky to the congregation. Wilcox said the minister’s sermon was about helping your neighbor.
Still, the announcement “wasn’t planned” to coincide with the sermon. “We just decided that Kentucky is our neighbor, and we started planning and put the trip together,” she said.
Madisonville was one of the cities hit during the December 2021 tornado outbreak that caused damages in more than 10 localities. The tornado traveled more than 160 miles throughout the state and caused 57 fatalities.
During the seven-day long trip, the group helped three different families. Wilcox said the first house they worked on was completely lifted off its foundation when the tornado hit and then set back down. “Which meant all the plumbing and wiring were gone. So, we completely wired their basement,” she said.
The group helped another lady remove cabinets in her kitchen that were damaged and had to be replaced, Wilcox said.
The last two days were spent with an 85-year-old lady. Her house – where she had lived for 50 years – was destroyed.
“They were putting together a new little house for her, and we did all the wiring in that house and about 80 percent of the insulation – everything except for the ceiling because we didn’t have scaffolding,” she said.
The group also collected towels to bring to the families in need to further assist those in help. Wilcox said the group tried to help with kitchen stuff and things a household needs in cases of those affected and displaced by the tornado.
“Some of them have nothing except the clothes on their back, the entire house is gone,” she said.
Wilcox said the churches currently do not have plans to go back to Kentucky to do more work.
“But these towns need help for months, and sometimes years,” she said.