Community

Some children impacted by December’s tornado outbreak in western Kentucky got a recent visit from Santa Claus, as Gov. Andy Beshear and First Lady Britainy Beshear continue giving out toys collected as part of a drive in the disaster’s immediate wake.

The Governor and First Lady recently announced a series of Christmas in July events, and have been giving out toys along the storm’s path.

At the Graves County event Tuesday, Mayfield Mayor Kathy O’Nan kicked things off.

“None of this would be possible without this beautiful lady in the pink standing next to me,” O’Nan said of the First Lady. “Nobody wants to think of children without Christmas presents, but somebody did something about that.”

Before giving out gifts, Britainy shared a note from a child that was found in one of the presents donated to the toy drive.

“Dear people of Kentucky, I know this month has been rough for you all, but I promise you all things will get better if we all stick together and get through it,’” Britainy read. “And I promise you that God will always be with you and never leaves your side. God bless everyone and Merry Christmas.”

Not every gift was for the kids. Gov. Beshear also presented a check for $4.65 million to expand internet services in Fulton, Hickman, Graves and Carlisle counties.

“The world we live in right now, we need roads, we need bridges, but we also need internet,” the governor said. “Whether that’s to see a doctor or for the job, whether that’s entertainment, every single family, and every single child deserves to be able to have that high speed internet.”

The governor said the funds from this announcement will help get internet access to 40,000 families.

Additionally, Graves County Economic Development President Jason Lemle was presented with an honorary Kentucky Colonel award.

For families in attendance like Douglas Irby and his kids, events like this one are a relief. Irby does crawl space repair and works on houses. He’s lived in Mayfield for the last 12 years.

“We’re still dealing with it. We’re still in a two-bedroom trailer, and we went from a five-bedroom to a two-bedroom,” Irby said. “Every time a storm comes, we get scared and flee to Nashville and get a motel room just to feel safe.”

Irby said he’s hoping for government subsidies or something to help offset the skyrocketing cost of things like lumber – a price he deals with regularly in his work – to make rebuilding easier.

Irby’s 9-year-old daughter, Lola, got a chapter book at the Christmas in July event. She likes reading the “Dork Diaries” series.

“I am happy because it brings all the people from the tornado recovery, and since some people missed out on it, they get to enjoy it, since some of their kids didn’t get toys,” Lola said.

She’s hoping to see people in their houses with their kids safe at home again soon.

Kristen Moore is a homemaker who was at the event with her 5-year-old son, Mason, who was very excited to see Santa. Moore said everyone had been super helpful in navigating and finding things. Her family home didn’t have a lot of damage after the storm, and she described them as “really fortunate.”

As far as Mayfield’s recovery efforts, she’s enjoyed seeing the teamwork in the community.

“It’s really nice to see everybody pulling together and helping people, helping each other,” Moore said.