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Red Cross offering aid to west Ky. families impacted by tornadoes

Derek Operle

This story has been updated to reflect the current schedule of the Red Cross recovery center in Mayfield.

The American Red Cross is offering assistance to families impacted by the recent tornados in Mayfield. Families seeking help can establish a case number at the Blue Building SportsPlex through Friday, Dec. 31.

Tom Woodward has lived in Mayfield for nearly 50 years. He was among the many area residents in the Red Cross recovery center Wednesday.

“I was sitting there watching the news and everything and my kids told me I should leave so I left and went to Paducah for two or three hours (during the storm) and I came back and everything was gone,” he told WKMS. “We’re picking up a piece here and a piece there, but it’s all gone. I don’t know how much they can do but that’s what I’m here for.”

Recovery center manager Sadiq Saffarini has been working at disaster sites for years and knows the toll they can take on people.

“All disasters are very different, but they’re traumatizing, they’re hard on all families whether it’s a wildfire, tornado, hurricane,” Saffarini said. “They’re all unpleasant and cause frustration, also can be very overwhelming.”

Derek Operle

Saffarini worked at a flooding recovery center on the eastern end of the state last spring and when he learned of the tornadoes, he knew he had to come back. He’s been on the scene for 10 days now, aiding families coming through the high school.

“I’ve been on many disasters. Kentucky…the time was a little unpredictable. Tornadoes are not as frequent or common during this season,” he said. “As soon as I knew Kentucky had been hit by a tornado, my inclination was to fly in and help.”

That overwhelming feeling is what the Red Cross is trying to alleviate with its recovery center. It’s able to offer three kinds of assistance for families whose homes have been majorly damaged or destroyed: financial assistance, health care, and counseling and spiritual care.

There is financial assistance for families whose homes were destroyed or that sustained major damage. Saffarini says the group is able to give $1,515 to each eligible family. In order to be eligible, the family must show proof that they live at a damaged or destroyed residence. A driver's license or a bill is enough.

Citizenship is not required to receive financial assistance, and renters are also eligible. Families need to bring the names and dates of birth for each family member in the household. If multiple families lived in one house, they may apply as recovering separately to be eligible for separate case numbers.

Families can receive help seeking medical care or lost medications. The Red Cross's medical assistance is limited to the replacement of prescriptions and medical devices that may have been lost or damaged in the tornado, including canes, wheelchairs, glasses and other implements.

For spiritual care, the Red Cross have brought counselors on site to speak with families in need. These counselors are able to refer families and individuals to other service providers.

The volunteer-staffed center will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 30, and Friday, Dec. 31. Saffarini expects the Red Cross to maintain a recovery center in the area longer than that, though a more permanent location is still being sought. For Red Cross assistance, call 1-800-733-2767 or visit the group’s website.

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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