Midwest and Southern US Tornado Relief Fund 2021

by GlobalGiving
Midwest and Southern US Tornado Relief Fund 2021
Photo: Kentucky Civic Engagement Table
Photo: Kentucky Civic Engagement Table

Last month marked the one-year anniversary of a devastating series of tornadoes. They left a trail of destruction across more than five states, including Kentucky. Thanks to your generous support of GlobalGiving’s Midwest and Southern US Tornado Relief Fund, communities are recovering.

In November, my colleague Chase and I saw the impact of your generosity firsthand. We met with several of our nonprofit partners in western Kentucky who are spearheading important, community-led work to fill the gaps and meet survivors’ needs. 

Despite sharing moments of joy and laughter together, nonprofit leaders in Kentucky showed us that the road to full recovery is long, and ongoing support is essential. With that in mind, GlobalGiving made another series of trust-based grants last month to a number of our partners in Kentucky on the front lines of tornado recovery.

Here is a short description of some of the critical work you’ve supported through your generosity and a reflection on our time in Kentucky:

We met Dustin, a leader of the Paducah LGBT Welcome Center (Heartland Equality). Heartland Equality has been working tirelessly with local communities, churches, universities, and companies to deliver the goods and cash people need to recover after the tornadoes. Dustin has driven hundreds of miles delivering food, clothes, and cash cards to survivors across many storm-affected communities. His team has provided vital care for LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC community members in the area. The latest GlobalGiving grant will allow Heartland Equality to provide more supplies for survivors and purchase a van to deliver them. Heartland Equality will store these supplies in a warehouse the team purchased with a previous grant from GlobalGiving.

We also visited Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland. The organization serves 42 counties, 17 of which were severely impacted by the December 2021 tornadoes. This meant Stephanie’s team had to jump into action to respond to each local food pantry’s needs across the region. As Chase and I saw, Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland continues to support its local partners by supplying them with much-needed food items, purchasing refrigerators and vans to build their capacity, and connecting them with other donors to bolster their total resources. You can watch a short docu-series about the organization’s response to the tornadoes here.

A great example of this work is the Needline Food Pantry in Mayfield, Kentucky. Mayfield was almost completely leveled by one of the tornadoes. Chase and I spoke with Jackie, the pantry's director. Jackie explained how flexible support from Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland helped his pantry distribute more food to families in need and also allowed them to cover the cost of individuals’ electricity bills to ensure they had heat during the winter months. You can hear from Jackie directly in this video.

Meghan, a community leader and our partner at Kentucky Civic Engagement Table, reminded us of the impact of flexible support on our final day in Kentucky. The organization continues to use GlobalGiving grants to support mutual aid groups and small, grassroots nonprofits that are largely excluded from the larger tornado recovery efforts. Meghan introduced us to two incredible community leaders named Crystal and Cinnamon. Both are driving community-led responses to meet survivors’ needs by providing flexible cash cards to families.

Your generosity has also allowed us to support other key partners through the most recent round of grants, including Kentucky Legal Aid (providing direct legal aid to survivors), and the International Center of Kentucky (providing holistic support to refugees who resettled in the Bowling Green area and were affected by the tornadoes).

Thank you again for your solidarity and support for all tornado-impacted communities. My time in Kentucky showed me how your donation truly makes a difference in advancing community-led disaster recovery.

With immense gratitude, 

Kyra + the GlobalGiving Team

Photo: Feeding America, Kentucky's Heartland
Photo: Feeding America, Kentucky's Heartland
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Photo: Kentucky Civic Engagement Table
Photo: Kentucky Civic Engagement Table

Thank you for your generous donation to GlobalGiving’s Midwest and Southern US Tornado Relief Fund. Nearly eight months after tornadoes struck states including Arkansas, Illinois, Tennessee, and Kentucky, impacted communities still face an extremely long road to recovery. This is especially true in hard-hit communities of western Kentucky, like Mayfield.

In recent months, GlobalGiving made additional grants to vetted nonprofit partners that remain on the front lines of the response in Kentucky and neighboring states. These grants provide flexible program and operational support to allow our partners to be more responsive to emerging gaps in the disaster recovery process.

Here is a summary of some of the critical work you’ve supported through your donation: 

  • The Community Foundation of West Kentucky continues to provide critical funding to its network of local grassroots partners across the most severely impacted counties in western Kentucky. For example, the foundation supported its partners at Living Lands and Waters to remove more than 1 million pounds of tornado debris from Kentucky Lake, including appliances, cars, and housing materials. The foundation also serves as a focal point for distributing funding to all Long-Term Recovery Groups (LTRG) in affected Kentucky counties.

  • Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland serves all tornado-affected counties in Kentucky through its network of 240 community partners. Since December 2021, the organization has mobilized $2.7 million in resources for tornado relief and recovery efforts. It has also distributed millions of pounds of food and supplies to its network. With the organization’s support, for example, its food pantry partners have been able to obtain commercial refrigerators and cargo vans to transport food.

  • Kentucky Legal Aid actively supports Kentuckians impacted by the tornadoes through free and subsidized legal services. Its team has helped hundreds of families complete FEMA applications and appeals, replace important documents lost in the tornadoes, and access disaster unemployment assistance. The organization is also helping families through insurance issues and scams related to the tornadoes as, unfortunately, many scammers take advantage of families facing immense loss and hardship.

  • The Kentucky Civic Engagement Table remains a critical player in organizing grassroots disaster response groups across Kentucky. Recently, the organization convened more than 20 western Kentucky grassroots leaders for a two-day strategy session to plan their collective disaster relief and recovery efforts. These meetings are critical to ensure organizations collaborate strategically.
  • The United Way of Kentucky is providing vital funding and guidance to its local chapters based in tornado-affected counties. In addition, the organization is playing a central role in the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) networks across all impacted communities. It is also advising local and state leaders on best practices to get much-needed funding to communities that have been neglected.
  • The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee is leveraging its tornado response experience from 2020 to provide flexible funding to the Weakley County LTRG in northwestern Tennessee. The group is made up of representatives from community faith-based groups, local volunteers, and other organizations working to help individuals and families affected by the tornadoes.
  • The Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas continues to support impacted community members via food distributions and coordination with other food banks in the communities it serves. The organization has also recently acquired a large generator to improve and secure its food storage systems.
  • The Southern Smoke Foundation provides direct cash assistance to individuals in the food and beverage industry in crisis across all states that were impacted by the tornadoes. You can read more here about a restaurant owner in Mayfield, Kentucky that received support from the organization.

As Tony Watkins from the Community Foundation of West Kentucky explained:

“We can still use more support as we are just entering the long-term building facet of this recovery, which will take years.”

Thank you for your solidarity and support for all tornado-impacted communities. The recovery process will not be easy, and it will take many years. GlobalGiving is committed to maintaining this Midwest and Southern US Tornado Relief Fund until early 2024 to ensure long-term support for our trusted nonprofit partners. In the months ahead, we will share another update as our partners’ incredible work continues.

Thank you again for supporting community-led disaster recovery.

With gratitude, 

Kyra + the GlobalGiving Team

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Photo: ICNA Relief USA Programs
Photo: ICNA Relief USA Programs

Thank you for your generous donation to GlobalGiving’s Midwest US Tornado Relief Fund. Less than 10 days after dozens of tornadoes devastated the Midwest and South, our team issued emergency grants to seven vetted nonprofit partners responding to this crisis in their communities.

Here is a short description of some of the critical work you’ve supported through your generosity: 

  • The United Way of Kentucky, the central hub of all 22 United Way members across Kentucky, launched its own tornado relief fund in the immediate aftermath of the tornadoes. Through the fund, the organization is quickly getting resources into the hands of local members in impacted areas while also coordinating directly with emergency management services across the state.
  • The United Way of Southern Kentucky, one of the 22 local United Way members, is stepping up to serve the community in and around Bowling Green. The organization hosts the state’s 211 system, a free 24-hour referral and information helpline that connects people of all ages to essential health and human services. Since the storm, the organization has answered thousands of calls and linked community members with needed resources. 
  • In response to the tornadoes, the Paducah LGBT Welcome Center (Heartland Equality) immediately launched an LGBTQ+ Mutual Aid Fund to get cash, clothing, and emergency supplies into the hands of storm survivors. To date, Heartland Equality has reached more than 400 families. 
  • The Community Foundation of West Kentucky is leveraging its 25 years of experience serving communities across western Kentucky to get immediate financial assistance to those most in need through its network of local nonprofit partners. Through its relief fund, the organization is supporting critical needs like temporary housing for displaced families. Its team says, “These are our friends and our neighbors. We are fully committed to the overall well-being of the impacted communities.” 
  • The Kentucky Civic Engagement Table and its allies at the Black Leadership Action Coalition of Kentucky and Hood To The Holler launched a joint relief fund that will provide emergency grants to grassroots groups responding to the storm’s impacts. Its fund prioritizes groups that serve Kentuckians who may otherwise be neglected by relief efforts, particularly Black, Indigenous, people of color, refugee, immigrant, and poor and working-class Kentuckians. Money is already on the move to help poor and working-class families afford insurance deductibles, mortgages, and rent during this crisis.
  • Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland serves all tornado-impacted counties in Kentucky. The team is working around the clock to get food and water to all affected communities. One of their local food banks in Mayfield County was destroyed, but they quickly moved operations to a temporary warehouse in Paducah. Staff members are also sharing resources directly with Feeding America affiliates in other states where the tornadoes struck. The organization’s Executive Director shares more about their efforts in a video message here.
  • ICNA Relief is a national organization that activates quickly after disasters. Its first responder teams have been on the ground in several impacted communities, including Eddyville, Kentucky, to clean up debris and provide mobile clinic services. 

The need remains enormous for impacted communities across the region. Within two weeks, GlobalGiving will make another round of emergency grants to our vetted nonprofit partners in Kentucky and surrounding states. In the months ahead, we will share another update as our partners’ incredible work continues. We are committed to providing ongoing support to those most affected by the tornadoes—long after the media coverage ends. And you are helping us do that.

Thank you again for supporting community-led disaster recovery.

With gratitude, 

Chase + the GlobalGiving Team

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Location: Washington, D.C. - USA
EIN: 30-0108263

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Twitter: @GlobalGiving

About GlobalGiving’s Disaster Response

When a disaster strikes, recovery efforts led by people who live and work in affected communities are often overlooked and underfunded. GlobalGiving is changing this reality. Since 2004, we've been shifting decision-making power to crises-affected communities through trust-based grantmaking and support.

We make it easy, quick, and safe to support people on the ground who understand needs in their communities better than anyone else.

They were there long before the news cameras arrived, and they’ll be there long after the cameras leave. They know how to make their communities more resilient to future disasters, and they’re already hard at work. GlobalGiving puts donations and grants directly into their hands. Because the status quo—which gives the vast majority of funding to a few large organizations—doesn’t make sense.

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