JACKSON CENTER — When a violent tornado ripped across Western Kentucky on Dec. 10, 2021, it left a seemingly endless path of destruction in its wake. The tornado was one of the longest-tracked tornadoes in history, and destroyed numerous homes and businesses as it traveled over 165 miles across the state. The storm system that produced this monumental tornado affected five states and involved dozens of smaller tornados over the course of two days.
In response to the destruction and the heartbreaking images coming out of the affected communities, a group of Airstream associates formed a charity drive to collect supplies and raise funds to send to disaster relief organizations in the affected areas. Led by Executive Administrative Assistant to the President CEO Christine McKenzie, the group rallied Airstream associates and reached out to several Airstream dealers and suppliers asking for donations of baby wipes, formula, diapers, nonperishable food, trash bags, extensions cords, and other necessities to help residents rebuild and get back on their feet.
The response was overwhelming.
“We heard over and over from associates who saw the images of the destruction and realized how lucky we all are – that it could have been us, it could have been anyone in the path of that tornado,” said McKenzie. “Everyone wanted to make an impact in whatever way they could. The outpouring of support was incredible.”
The group was able to fill four pallets with supplies, and the monetary donations from Airstream, Inc., six Airstream dealerships, and 10 Airstream suppliers totaled over $40,000. Kentucky United Way was chosen as the recipient of the funds, as 100 percent of the money was guaranteed to be used for the victims of the tornadoes.
“We did a lot of research to try and determine where the money would best be utilized,” said McKenzie. “Kentucky United Way was very appreciative of our donation.”
Additionally, McKenzie and her daughter, Katie McKenzie, 17, loaded up an Airstream Interstate with additional items and left on Dec. 27 to personally deliver the supplies to residents in Kentucky. They arrived at the Mayfield-Graves County Fairgrounds where supplies were being collected, organized, and distributed.
“It was incredibly-well organized,” said McKenzie. “They helped us unload the supplies, organize them, and then load them for transportation to the affected communities. It was incredible to see so many people working together to help out.”
After dropping off their shipment, McKenzie and her daughter traveled into the town of Mayfield – one of the communities most affected by the tornado’s destruction, to see for themselves the reality of the disaster.
“It was like nothing I could have imagined,” McKenzie said of the destruction she witnessed – buildings reduced to piles of bricks, children playing soccer amongst the rubble, and homes ripped off their foundations. “Even after seeing the images on TV and online, it was surreal. It’s just amazing that anyone was able to survive something like this.”
“Thanks to all the Airstream associates, dealers, and suppliers who donated to the charity drive,” said McKenzie. “You really made a difference for those affected by this tragedy, and your efforts will help them rebuild and restart their lives.”