A group of local men recently returned from a two-day trek to deliver supplies to disaster-stricken areas just one state above Georgia. Lynn Edenfield, Tom Phillips, and Shannon McCullough of Emanuel County drove a U-Haul and an 18-wheeler full of items generously donated by the community as an aid to Mayfield, Kentucky and the places surrounding it.
This effort was organized immediately following Mayfield’s experiencing near-complete devastation in the deadliest tornado in the United States on record on December 10. At least 80 deaths were confirmed in Kentucky, and the tornado wreaked havoc for more than 165 miles.
The three men who delivered the goods worked alongside another local to pull off the supply drive. Billy Brinson (current brotherhood director, rising director of missions at the Emanuel Emanuel Missionary Baptist Association, and pastor at Hines Baptist Church) was approached by Lynn Edenfield, member of Mount Shady Baptist Church with an idea to help the thousands affected by the damage. The group coordinated a church-to-church outreach, and pallets upon pallets of items were collected from then on. Additionally, thousands of dollars worth of funds were donated by individuals and businesses to go toward the same cause.
With all the items collected and sorted, the trio of delivery drivers set out to load everything. They had planned to use just a single 18-wheeler for the trip but quickly (and humbly) found they would need yet another means of transportation to accommodate the bulk. They rented a U-Haul, packed it to the gill, and set out on Wednesday, December 22.
Phillips, in an interview last Thursday, talked about the process behind coordinating the delivery itself. As it turns out, Facebook was the avenue of communication used to sort out the logistics.
“When I saw the news about the tornado, I couldn’t get it off my mind, what these people must have been going through,” he said. “I joined all kind of groups on Facebook and saw numerous posts from people who were actually living it. Then, when we got together and decided we wanted to help, I thought it might be a good idea to talk to these same people and see where the need was the biggest and who from there could help us get these donations to a place where they would be used right away.”
Two of those people, according to Phillips, were David Powell, the very individual who manned the weather command center in Christian County and communicated important breaking information to residents of the affected areas, and Cecilia Cloos, a woman who managed a large Facebook group dedicated to helping the affected areas.
With those contacts, the trio of locals were able to nail down a place to deliver the truckloads—a task that, on the surface, may have seemed easy to do but proved not to be as donations from all over the country were pouring in at the same time. In fact, the men had to pull over mid-trip and reassess the delivery point, but it worked out in the end as Phillips arranged for the Hopkinsville EMA center (just outside of Mayfield) to be opened and turned into a temporary storage spot for donation overflow.
As the couriers arrived and helped unload the goods—which specifically included nonperishable goods, drop cords, tarps, toys, paper goods, and a considerable amount of water—they were told not once but twice by different people a remarkable story that perhaps best illustrates the intensity of the storm weathered by the Kentuckians. Reportedly, the tornado had ripped from the ground an entire fire hydrant and displaced it hundreds of yards away.
“It was just unbelievable,” Phillips said, “and not in a good way. It was humbling and hard to wrap your brain around. These folks, when we got there, you could tell they were tired… But they were so appreciative and in good spirits. We started this to be a blessing to others, to do God’s work, and by the time we were finished, I think God had His way with all of us.”
Most of all, Phillips said this entire operation wouldn’t have been possible without the giving heart of Emanuel (and the surrounding areas).
“It doesn’t seem like enough to say this, but thank you to everyone who helped,” he continued. “They were in need—a real need like on a scale we’ve never seen around here, thankfully—and we were able to fill it because of everybody here. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and just know these folks who were on the receiving end were thankful as well. All of the supplies we took, from the best of our understanding, have already been given out.”
The Chronicle also looked to Edenfield for his personal connection to the story, and he provided a letter on Monday headlined with Genesis 12:2, which says, “I will bless you… and you will be a blessing.”
Edenfield continued the letter, penning in the first paragraph, “God pours out His blessings on us daily in many different ways—through our family, friends, and other people. He puts in our lives things He blesses us to acquire, and He blesses us financially as well. If He has blessed us financially, He doesn’t intend for us to clamp our hands shut and hold onto our blessings for ourselves only He intends for us to bless others when we have received these blessings. That is just what the people of Emanuel County and even some surrounding counties did when they heard of the destruction the people of Kentucky had suffered from being hit by several tornadoes.”
As he, a deacon of Mount Shady Baptist, watched television that Sunday morning and saw the heartbreaking scene, he was so touched that he felt there had to be something the church could do. After the service, he talked with another deacon and the pastor about what they thought about getting some things together to take. These donated items could be collected from church members, and the deacon proposed he would go around to local business owners and see if they, too, might like to add to the donation.
The pastor of the church and the deacons felt sure this game plan, combined with maybe a truck and a pull-behind trailer of some sort as well as the verbal spreading of the word about the effort, would result in enough of a collection to warrant the trip.
That discussion took place Sunday morning, December 12, and from that point onward, Edenfield feels there was “no question that God touched [the effort] with a special blessing.”
In two days, word had circulated about the group’s undertaking to collect needed items, spreading like wildfire. People began phoning to inquire about where to drop off items and the possibility of someone picking up items elsewhere.
“Initially, this began with the idea that donations could be dropped off at the church, but several establishments volunteered to be drop-off points,” Edenfield explained. “This thing really blossomed to be way bigger than we ever thought. People were helping by posting on Facebook, telling their friends, neighbors, and family. We couldn’t believe how fast and how big it grew.”
The phone calls didn’t stop. Neither did people’s desire to help. Other churches gave, as did business owners and countless individuals. Mount Shady ended up connecting with the individual who ultimately supplied the tractor-trailer, and the organizers set out with their original plan in mind.
They would collect items for about a week, load those items up, and leave to deliver said items on Wednesday, December 22, or the following day.
That Tuesday, however, was when the men discovered they needed the U-Haul to fit the rest of the donations and to make sure the 18-wheeler stayed within its weight guidelines.
“God is so good. He made a way. We went and rented one of the largest U-Hauls they make,” Edenfield said. “After both trucks were loaded and ready to pull out around 7 or 7:30 that Wednesday morning, we still had a call with more items and yet another call came on Christmas Day from a lady from Vidalia with items to donate. We hated telling folks it was too late.”
(On that note, Phillips said Thursday there is chatter about maybe making another run, but nothing is set in stone yet.)
“There are a lot of good people still in this world, and thanks to them, we were able to take three times as many donated items we thought we would have originally. This is a great big ‘thank you’ to everyone who helped make this a success. Whether it was telling someone about what we were doing, posting it on Facebook, allowing your store or office to be a drop-off point, gathering up items you no longer needed around home, purchasing items or giving cash donations to help with items we bought or the expense of the additional truck and gas… If you helped in any way, thank you. The spark of the idea may have started with Mount Shady, but it doesn’t matter who organized it and got it underway because without God touching hearts to give, it would not have been possible,” Edenfield said. “Through it all, we receive a blessing in so many ways. This article isn’t for recognition to anyone. It’s a big ‘thank you’ to everyone and to let folks know how proud they should be to live in such a caring community. In the end, we have received the blessing, but we want to give God all the glory. God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good!”