Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist

We have been told that we are divided as a nation. Some even say that we are fractured beyond repair. But judging from I witnessed this week, those statements are far from the truth.

After the tornadoes that ripped through Kentucky and other states last weekend, The Times-Gazette learned that Hillsboro resident Buz Oppy has a daughter, 29-year-old Hannah Pasko, who lives in Mayfield, Kentucky, a community that was utterly devastated during the storms. So, after learning that Oppy planned to head to Mayfield this week with relief supplies, The Times-Gazette sent out a plea for community donations for Oppy to take with him.

By Tuesday afternoon we had practically a pickup truck load of dog food from one local business, dozens of donations from other community members, and a flat of water promised from another local business.

On Wednesday morning, Oppy picked the items we had to that point and took them to Wakefield, along with other donations from other local locations. By late Wednesday afternoon, the room where The Times-Gazette is storing the donations was packed again, and others have called us wanting to drop off money and more donations.

Yes, we are too deeply divided on too many issues in this country. But when it comes down to what is really important — the lives and well-being of our fellow countrymen — those differences seem fade into the background and we are quick to answer the call for help.

That tells me our divisions are not so deep as some would have us believe.

It has been heartwarming this week, especially during the Christmas season, to watch the donations come pouring in.

We were helping a man and woman I had never seen before with Pennsylvania license plates on their pickup truck pack several bagfuls of donations into the newspaper offices this week. As we were carrying the bags up the sidewalk, a Hillsboro area resident who was passing by stopped and started helping carry the loads. Before long, the same local resident returned to our offices with her own vehicle load of donations.

Then there is former Hillsboro area resident Kassie Juillerat Bennett, now a Lexington, Kentucky area resident, who with her husband and four sons made the trip to Mayfield, Kentucky where they are helping coordinate the relief effort.

No doubt, there are other local locations and individuals collecting donations for the relief effort. I know the youth group at Carpenter’s House of Prayer is heading down the week after next to cook for the Mayfield residents and drop off more donations. It is good to know that we live in a county where people truly care.

“For family and friends, that’s what you do for them,” Oppy told The Times-Gazette this week.

Bennett and her family were going door-to-door in Mayfield this week helping families carry possessions out of damaged homes. She said the things people were asking for included baby wipes, water, tarps, hammers, nails, kitten and puppy food, and cat litter.

If you want a first-hand account of what’s happening in Mayfield, and other ways you can help, check out Bennett’s Facebook page. You will find live updates telling you exactly what is being done, what is needed, and what is not needed.

In one post she talks about how large the area of destruction is, but also mentions that in other parts of Mayfield people have homes that may have damage, but are livable. She said she visited with an 82-year-old women who was in that type of situation, but would make trips to her car every so often to get warm — because the city’s residents have no heat or water.

In a Wednesday evening post, Bennett said she spoke with the main person over animal control for Mayfield and the surroundings counties. As of that afternoon, she said they had 75 misplaced dogs and expected many more.

She shared the following post from a Mayfield woman about her dog:

“Night #3 without him. By now he’s starving and freezing and hopefully hunkered down and surviving. I’ve walked so many miles of roads and woods and waterlines that I’ve covered my feet in blisters. I told Marks story to every person I saw today and I’ve cried at least 1000 tears in front of complete strangers. It’s as though he simply vanished into thin air and I am losing my mind.

“I won’t stop looking but my body literally won’t let me look anymore tonight. My gratitude for your well wishes and suggestions is endless; to the literal strangers who showed up outside our door to help I am in your debt and to the poor people who hugged me while I knocked on their doors and begged them to look out for Mark, I simply say ‘Thank You.’

“I don’t know what else to do.

“I am absolutely gutted. Please come home, Mark. Your Mama is lost without you.”

Mayfield is going to need help for a long time. The Times-Gazette is going to continue accepting items indefinitely for the residents there.

Donations can be dropped off at The Times-Gazette at 108 Gov. Trimble Place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Those interested in providing supplies can contact Sharon Hughes at 937-708-9443, Ann Elam at 937-763-3108 or the newspaper’s general office number at 937-393-3456.

Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected] or 937-402-2522.

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist Gilliland Staff columnist