This YMCA Showed Up in New Ways When Their Community Needed Them Most
In December 2021, tornadoes swept through communities across multiple states in the Midwest and the South. Kentucky was hit especially hard. The Hopkins County Family YMCA in Madisonville, KY was not affected, but their community was devastated. So the Y did what it does best: answer the call for help.
They quickly mobilized staff, volunteers and community partners to transport food, water and essential items to workers helping with the cleanup. The Y opened its facility for free WiFi, a warm shower, and a safe space to be together. They distributed hygiene kits to people who lost everything and basic supplies to the elderly. Just a few short weeks before Christmas, Y staff and volunteers led “Make Christmas Happen” to ensure local children would receive gifts.
“Our team is full of thoroughbreds. They’re balancing regular Y operations and completely opening their heart to every opportunity to give selflessly,” said Chad Hart, Hopkins County Family YMCA CEO.
YMCA Staff Providing Hope and Faith
Grateful for the safety of his family and team, Hart was compelled to do more. More than 70 people were listed as missing. “Troy Whitehair and I are working in the tornado path on recovery and clean up. I’m not sure if we will find remains but we are prepared for that. I cannot fathom my child missing and people being at home not looking for my girls. I’d rather die out here helping than live comfortably the rest of my life.”
As the nation watched the aftermath of the tornado, donors near and far came forward to give money, toys and supplies to support the Y’s efforts. Neighboring YMCAs collected and delivered supplies, as well. The generosity of these donors and the Y’s swift response provided immediate comfort and support to thousands of people affected by the tornado.
“Nearly every day for a month we had staff and YMCA Directors (Kelly Forbes, Michelle Hale, Katie Beeny, Josiah Staggs, Mandy Harris, Kelly Bearden and Angela Carter) walking the roads amongst the tornado path handing out shelf-stable meals, hygiene kits and other items. The stories that hit us the most were the ones when staff offered a person a simple hug. There would be a moment of meaningful embrace and some tears shed,” said Hart. “Those moments were singlehandedly the most important work ever done by our Y staff. In a time where there was an abundance of loss we found an overwhelming amount of hope and faith without having to look for it.”
Prioritizing Donor Impact Through it All
While the community continues to rebuild, Hart wanted each and every donor to know their gift made an impact. As consultants, we often stress the importance of acknowledging and stewarding each gift. The Y created a video to let donors know how their gift was used and show their appreciation. But it was this sincere handwritten thank you addressed to Vice President, Jan Brogdon that showed us the true meaning of stewardship.
Chad wrote in another thank you note to one of our team members, “Saying thank you - and radical stewardship - is something I learned from this great group of people from DBD. You should read up on them. Haha.”
One of the reasons we love the work we do is because of organizations like the Hopkins County Family YMCA and leaders like Chad. When we are even a small part of important mission work like this, we recognize the greater purpose of what we do and how every one of us can make an impact. Our thoughts are with all who were impacted and those affected by the recent tornadoes in Iowa.
P.S. Leaders learn from other leaders. Chad credits the idea of a thank you video to his Annual Giving Academy colleague, Steve Smith, President, YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties. Steve and his team created a thank you video and shared it using a QR code in their mailed communications. The two have stayed in touch and continue to share great ideas.
DBD Team (2022) HOW THIS YMCA SHOWED LEADERSHIP IN THE MIDST OF A CRISIS. Retrieved from: https://www.dbd.group/blog/crisis-leadership