Reaching Out

When Lions in Easton, Massachusetts saw images on TV of the devastation wrought by a tornado that tore through Kentucky in December 2021, they knew they wanted to do something to help.

Destruction from tornado
A tornado in December of 2021 hit the downtown of Mayfield, Kentucky hard.

“It looked [like] something out of a movie,” says Andrew Parker, president of the Easton Lions Club. “When you see that level of destruction, it’s visceral. It’s like a bomb went off.”

Parker reached out to the Mayfield Lions Club, which was struck hard by the storm that cut a 200-mile-long path of death and destruction through the western part of the state.

“Our downtown took the main hit,” says Mayfield Lion Jeff Gream. “The post office is gone. The courthouse is gone. The city hall is gone. Pictures don’t do justice to what happened here.”

Writing an email to other club members, Parker rallied their support for a fundraiser.

“One of the cruelest ironies is that the best gestures often arise out of terrible circumstances,” he wrote. “The tornadoes that ravaged the Midwest caused unimaginable damage, and their impact will last for generations.”

Pizza proprietor holding flyer
Bills House Of Pizza in Easton, Massachusetts, held a fundraiser to raise money for Lions in Kentucky.

The Easton club decided to dedicate a day’s profits from a thrift store it operates to the Mayfield Club.

Their efforts were bolstered by Bill’s House of Pizza, a local pizzeria, which also held a fundraiser for tornado relief.

In total, the efforts, which included individual donations from Lions, raised about US$10,000 that was gratefully accepted by the Mayfield Lions, who are using it to help their neighbors repair and move back into their homes.

The club also received a US$20,000 Disaster Relief grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) that has been used to provide residents with propane heaters, hardware, and carbon monoxide alarms.

“The tornado took out everything, even our natural gas supply,” says Gream.

According to Gream, there were 477 families as of mid-January who couldn’t yet return to their homes.

Lions with meals to delivery.
Whether their hometown or another’s, Lions show up to help.

“Our plan is to help the families who we believe we can get back into their homes the quickest,” Gream says.

The club also will use the funds to help residents furnish their homes.

“They don’t have furniture, couches, plates or glasses,” he says. “They have lost everything.”

Mayfield Lions established a five-member Tornado Relief Committee that will review applications for funds made by residents for such items as repairing roofs, restoring electricity, or buying furniture.

They’ve also worked with the Graves County Office of Emergency Management to distribute items that people need including food, blankets, cleaning supplies, generators, heaters, tarps, and bottled water.

“We’ve put everything else on hold for now,” he says. “We will continue when the time is right.”

One of the club’s goals is to find a new place to meet. The restaurant where it met previously was damaged in the storm.

Lions on the Ground in kentucky
Lions help distribute food, blankets, cleaning supplies, generators, heaters, tarps, and bottled water.

Members have been meeting by Zoom and conversing by email, but communication is challenging because three-quarters of the city still doesn’t have Internet service.

“It’s important for us to meet in person so we can discuss what’s going on in our county,” Gream says.

As they work to rebuild their community, the Mayfield Lions are touched by the efforts of the Easton Lions to help them out.

“It’s awesome that they were willing to step up,” he says. “The funds will be put to good use.”