Rapid Response

Ongoing support after Unprecedented Tornadoes in Six States by David Reardon

On December 10th, a series of tornadoes tore through the western Kentucky area as well as Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri, taking many lives and devastating communities. It was called the worst tornado event in the state of Kentucky’s history. The tornadoes touched down in several Kentucky counties including Fulton, Warren, Hopkins and Graves. The Salvation Army of the Kentucky-Tennessee (KTN) Division was on the scene providing relief in whatever way possible. Meals were served, shelter provided and spirits lifted by the officers, soldiers, and volunteers that were servants to the people going through that extremely difficult time—while they themselves were also dealing with the harsh reality. 

In Warren County, The Salvation Army was set up at Jennings Creek Elementary School in the city of Bowling Green. At this point of distribution, responders handed out clean-up kits and food boxes. Over 3,200 people were without power and in need of assistance. The Army’s canteen from Nashville was deployed to the school to serve as a Bowling Green feeding site. Captains Johnny and Monica Horton, corps officers in Bowling Green, were on the ground serving meals, snacks, and spiritual care.

The Salvation Army of Paducah, KY set up an incident command team at Mayfield High School to service Mayfield and Graves County, where there is also a canteen from Jackson, TN. In addition, two caravans of canteens arrived from the Alabama-Louisiana-Mississippi (ALM) Division. Lieutenants David and Brittney Donegan were on the scene there. Additional assistance in this area came from the Georgia Division.

In Hopkins County, The Salvation Army of Madisonville provided meals to people in shelters in the Dawson Springs and Earlington communities, led by Major Mike and Captain Lisa Good. More than 3,000 cases of water were distributed and over 2,300 people were without power. The team from Madisonville also served meals to first responders and those displaced immediately after the storm occurred. 

Relief efforts were also put together in communities affected in other nearby states. The Salvation Army team from Jonesboro, Arkansas assisted and fed first responders as they worked to recover from the storm. They assisted the Fire Department and Entergy in Leachville, AR in restoring power to the area. “Entergy and The Salvation Army oftentimes work hand in hand when it comes to helping people recover from disasters. The work they do to help victims, as well as the communities and local organizations, is invaluable. We’re fortunate to have a partner like The Salvation Army during such events as we take care of our primary responsibility to restore power.” said Whitney Rial, Customer Service Manager of Entergy Arkansas.

The Army partnered with local news stations to promote donation efforts, spreading the message that 100% of donated funds would be used for tornado relief in the Kentucky area and other affected communities. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation also partnered with The Salvation Army, creating the Registry for Good on their website. A list of goods could be purchased online through Walmart and sent directly to the disaster relief areas.

The Army carried out its disaster response in addition to its annual holiday support — typically providing Christmas presents to more than 2.5 million children and its ongoing response to the pandemic — serving more than 275 million meals and providing over $200 million in financial assistance.

 “God’s love is being shown through the hands and hearts of the people – the givers, the volunteers, the workers, the community itself,” said Major Ann Penhale, Divisional Leader of The Salvation Army of Kentucky and Tennessee. “To the many people who have given to The Salvation Army’s disaster response—thank you and God bless you. You are the hands and feet of Jesus – we are here to share your generosity and love with the people who are rebuilding from this storm.”

Please note that this article was written while the disaster relief efforts were ongoing, and the consequences of the disaster and the scope of emergency assistance still being evaluated. After the initial response, the Army is transitioning to long-term recovery through case management and meeting physical, emotional and spiritual needs of victims in conjunction with public and private partners. Donations can be made online at or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY and designating “KY Tornado Relief” with your gift.  Monetary donations ensure that The Salvation Army can meet the immediate needs of people impacted. The Army applies 100% of all disaster donations to relief and recovery.