Cayce

Cayce Baptist Church Pastor Mark Dowdy leads a community meeting on Sunday, April 24, as area residents receive updates on the ongoing tornado recovery process after the December tornado outbreak.

CAYCE — The Cayce community met on Sunday at the Cayce Baptist Church to update area residents and community members on the going process of tornado recovery.

The Fulton County locale was one of the first in Kentucky hit by December’s tornado outbreak. Local estimates indicated that there are about 100 homes in the community, and about two thirds of them were damaged or destroyed by the devastating storm.

There were about 50 people in attendance overall at the meeting, and attendees included the Fulton County Long Term Recovery Committee, representatives from Project Recovery and Samaritan’s Purse and area residents. Cayce Baptist Church Pastor Mark Dowdy led the meeting.

“I want to tell you, from the bottom of my heart, I hate that we had to go through this, but we had to go through it,” Dowdy said. “I want us to keep going through what we’re going through now, but I want us to do it together.”

One of the first speakers at the meeting was Cherry Pyron, the board chair for Habitat for Humanity of Fulton & Hickman County Kentucky. Many members of the Cayce community were encouraged to apply with Habitat for Humanity to get assistance rebuilding. The chapter is hoping to build three homes in the area and they have already been repairing one home in the area damaged by the storm.

Pyron told attendees that the Habitat for Humanity chapter is in the process of reviewing applications and setting up home visits to assess the different levels of damage. She said applicants will hear from the nonprofit as the application process advances.

Julie Jackson, director of operations for Fulton County Schools, and Thelma Hunter, division director of addiction service for Four Rivers Behavioral Health, spoke on the need for mental and emotional support for people within the Cayce community and what was being done and planned on this issue.

Jackson discussed the recent tornado drill the county had and how it was different than in previous years.

“We actually did room by room tornado drills with the students and talked to them beforehand,” Jackson said.

She acknowledged the other challenges young people in the community have been facing in recent years — COVID-19, drugs, parents away from home — and how the tornado has impacted those struggles. Jackson said they’re looking into getting Project Recovery, which Hunter works with, into the schools.

“We are here to provide support, education, support groups for kids, adults because everyone is affected by this tornado, not just people who lost everything, people who may not have lost anything, we’re still affected and traumatized,” Hunter said. “That’s what we’re trying to get the word out about is we’re here for anyone who needs that support.”

Dowdy also said the long term recovery committee has a subcommittee of local pastors offering spiritual counseling to those who are interested.

Tim Cottrell, superintendent of the Samaritan’s Purse project for western Kentucky, came to the meeting to detail the organization’s ability to help the area. Since Cayce is about an hour away from Mayfield, Samaritan’s Purse is able to expand into far western Kentucky.

“The big thing is we just would like for people that need help to turn in [their] name,” Cottrell said. “Don’t be bashful or ashamed or hesitant, I’d love to talk to anybody.”

Cottrell shared some of the steps and requirements in Samaritan’s Purse’s assistance process, such as what resources the project has available at this time and what are some of the projects that have already been worked on.

Fulton County Judge-Executive Jim Martin provided an update at the meeting on recovery assistance coming from the state and federal government levels. His updates included information on the ongoing debris removal process, the efforts to replace the destroyed Cayce Fire Department and efforts to get tornado shelters in the county.

Martin brought attention to the inclusion of Fulton County in the Rural Partners Network, which increases economic access in communities with persistent poverty.

“There’s only one place in the country where they designated a single county to participate in that program,” Martin said. “That’s Fulton County, Kentucky.”

One of the things the program will bring in is grant writers with efficient access to federal organizations, Martin said.

The community is also supposed to receive tulips harvested from the state Capitol Building.

Lily Burris is a tornado recovery reporter for WKMS, Murray State’s NPR Station. Her nine-month reporting project is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.