Donations help US tornado survivors save Christmas

With the help of volunteers from across the country, families in western Kentucky can celebrate Christmas later on Saturday, two weeks after a string of tornadoes wreaked a deadly path.

“We’re just trying to have Christmas,” said Jimmy Finch, a volunteer from neighboring Tennessee who came to Mayfield the day after the Twister hit.

“I didn’t exactly count how many people we fed,” Finch said. “We encourage everyone to keep coming back.”

Under a large yellow tent set up in a parking lot, the Scientology Volunteer Ministers group also serves hot food and drinks on a cold, windy Christmas Eve.

Volunteers have boarded tornado-ravaged Mayfield, Kentucky, to provide the survivors with hot food and drink and to distribute toys for the children

Volunteers have boarded tornado-ravaged Mayfield, Kentucky, to provide the survivors with hot food and drink and to distribute toys for the children

Donations from across the country have helped tornado survivors look like a normal vacation

Donations from across the country have helped tornado survivors look like a normal vacation

One volunteer group estimates that she has served over 30,000 meals since arriving in Mayfield, the epicenter of tornado devastation

One volunteer group estimates that she has served over 30,000 meals since arriving in Mayfield, the epicenter of tornado devastation

Families affected by the tornadoes can take away groceries, toys, and other staples at distribution locations in western Kentucky

Families affected by the tornadoes can take away groceries, toys, and other staples at distribution locations in western Kentucky

Cleaners remove rubble from destroyed homes during the rescue operations on Christmas Eve after tornadoes hit several US states in Dawson Springs, Kentucky

Cleaners remove rubble from destroyed homes during the rescue operations on Christmas Eve after tornadoes hit several US states in Dawson Springs, Kentucky

Marisol Alvarez (L) helps her brother-in-law Jose Morales (R) in his destroyed house on Jan.

Marisol Alvarez (L) helps her brother-in-law Jose Morales (R) in his destroyed house on Jan.

Samaritan's Purse volunteers are handing out toys to people at a donation point in Graves County High School in Mayfield, Ky., Two weeks after a string of tornadoes wreaked havoc on Christmas Eve

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers are handing out toys to people at a donation point in Graves County High School in Mayfield, Ky., Two weeks after a string of tornadoes wreaked havoc on Christmas Eve

Volunteers, many of them children, stand in line to load children's bikes into a trailer to give away during the toy ride and Christmas party after tornadoes ripped through several states

Volunteers, many of them children, stand in line to load children’s bikes into a trailer to give away during the toy ride and Christmas party after tornadoes ripped through several states

“It’s a very difficult time for everyone,” said Chad Adams, a member of the organization. “We try to make sure everyone eats.”

He estimates that over 30,000 meals have been served since the disaster and invites everyone to keep coming back for food and hot chocolate.

In other locations, organizations were handing out toys to families who had lost everything in hopes of bringing some joy amid the tragedy.

In the nearby town of Benton, Shane Cornwell dressed up as Santa Claus for his volunteer shift at a fundraiser where boxes of toys and food lined the walls of the local Elk Lodge.

Volunteers with Samaritan's Purse hand out toys to people at a donation point at Graves County High School in Mayfield, Kentucky

Volunteers with Samaritan’s Purse hand out toys to people at a donation point at Graves County High School in Mayfield, Kentucky

Pastor Barb Rigdon and Pastor Tim Rigdon lead volunteers who pray before they organize a toy drive and Christmas party at Redemption City Church

Pastor Barb Rigdon and Pastor Tim Rigdon lead volunteers who pray before they organize a toy drive and Christmas party at Redemption City Church

Samaritan's Purse volunteers are handing out toys to people at a donation point in Graves County High School in Mayfield, Kentucky, two weeks after a string of tornadoes wreaked havoc on December 24, 2021

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers are handing out toys to people at a donation point in Graves County High School in Mayfield, Kentucky, two weeks after a string of tornadoes wreaked havoc on December 24, 2021

Ede Alvarez and Jose Morales' children play in front of their ruined home on Christmas Eve, two weeks after a string of tornadoes wreaked a deadly path in Mayfield, Kentucky

Ede Alvarez and Jose Morales’ children play in front of their ruined home on Christmas Eve, two weeks after a string of tornadoes wreaked a deadly path in Mayfield, Kentucky

Ede Alvarez plays with her children in front of her destroyed house on Christmas Eve

Ede Alvarez plays with her children in front of her destroyed house on Christmas Eve

Jose Morales works in his ruined house on Christmas Eve as he tries to clean up the mess

Jose Morales works in his ruined house on Christmas Eve as he tries to clean up the mess

Marisol Alvarez (L) helps her brother-in-law Jose Morales in his destroyed house on Christmas Eve

Marisol Alvarez (L) helps her brother-in-law Jose Morales in his destroyed house on Christmas Eve

Children of Ede Alvarez and Jose Morales sit in their destroyed house on Christmas Eve

Children of Ede Alvarez and Jose Morales sit in their destroyed house on Christmas Eve

The son of Ede Alvarez and Jose Morales plays in front of their destroyed house on Christmas Eve

The son of Ede Alvarez and Jose Morales plays in front of their destroyed house on Christmas Eve

Outside, volunteers were painting Christmas tree decorations, while local families affected by the storm collected toys from trash cans sorted by age group.

At least 79 people were killed in the tornadoes that struck several states on the night of December 10 and the early morning of December 11.

“The scale and extent of this destruction are hard to believe,” said US President Joe Biden after a tour of the damage in Mayfield.

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