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Tornado relief fund nears $10 million, toy drives launch

Ryan Van Velzer

Kentucky families are continuing to grapple with their losses following the series of tornadoes that swept across the western part of the state. In just four days, the state has raised nearly $10 million for tornado relief efforts with more donations rolling in. Now a number of toy drives are popping up to collect gifts for children impacted by the storm.

Kentucky First Lady Britainy Beshear announced Monday that she would be organizing a Western Kentucky Toy Drive at several locations. State officials are asking for new and unwrapped toys, games, books and technology as well as $25 Visa or Mastercard gift cards.

“This time of year, we all look forward to being home for the holidays, spending time with those who mean the most to us,” she said. “Now, many of our families don’t have houses to go home to. Or even worse, they’ve lost someone they love who made their family whole.”

During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Andy Beshear called the general fundraising effort “nothing short of extraordinary,” but cautioned that the state would need to be intentional about where the funding was going.

“We’re going to be real careful that a large portion of this fund is available for the needs of Kentuckians that are going to continue long after the outside help is gone,” he said. “We’re going to be looking at what every other fund out there is doing and making sure we’re meeting the long term needs of these residents.”

At least 74 people have been confirmed dead following the storm. 12 of them were children. There are over 100 people still missing.

Groups throughout the state are joining in the effort to deliver gifts to western Kentucky families, including McCracken County Cooperative Extension, Clark County Girl Scouts in Winchester, Pikeville High School and many more.

Clacey Jones, a 10-year-old girl from Beechmont, said she was moved to start her own toy drive when she heard about the other children who might not have Christmas presents because of the tornadoes. She posted to her mom’s Facebook page asking for her community to bring donations to Clacey’s Auto Parts and Hardware.

“My toy drive will hopefully help kids feel love and support this Christmas following these devastating tornadoes,” she wrote. “Kids helping kids is the message I want to share!”

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