Holiday giving is an annual tradition, whether gifting for family and friends or donating to favorite causes. For Kentucky cities, that philosophy has become a year-round effort.
From rescue boats to pick-up trucks, Kentucky communities step up and show up for each other. In the last year, Kentucky cities provided staffing, services, donations of more than 80 vehicles – just through KLC – with much more direct outreach from city to city.
“Cities Helping Cities” was an effort that started during COVID-19 when some cities ran short on personal protective equipment (PPE) and other necessities. Then Jeffersontown Mayor and KLC President Bill Dieruf coined the phrase as the effort to share resources became an organized program for KLC members.
Fast forward to December 2021, when large and small cities in western Kentucky experienced the most catastrophic tornadoes in Kentucky’s history. KLC Insurance Services insured most impacted cities, so the KLC teams and third-party administrators were on the ground within hours of the destruction. KLC deployed the municipal law team to help cities navigate resources, avoid scams, and run compliantly while recovering from the disaster.
Calls immediately came in to KLC from cities, organizations, and private individuals, asking how they could help. The KLC Board of Directors instructed staff to organize a way to track city needs and donations. What followed was a specific point of contact, resource and referral information through KLC Member & Business Development, a system to track donations, and guidance on the proper way to surplus donations.
“Collaboration is what KLC does best for our member cities,” said KLC President and Southgate Mayor James Hamberg. Cities Helping Cities is just one of the ways the KLC, acting as the conduit, brings cities and resources together through collaboration."
“Kentuckians have suffered during this past year – literally from one end of the state to the other – but never have we felt closer,” said Mayfield Mayor Kathy O’Nan. “During the night of Dec. 10, 2021, I received calls from mayors from all parts of the commonwealth, each with the same message: What do you need? How can we help? The City of Mayfield continues to be blessed with support from many places but from no place more than other Kentucky cities.”
KLC staff made daily, then weekly, check-in calls to cities for more than two months after the tornadoes. “It was clear that our cities wanted to help each other in any way they could,” said KLC Executive Director|CEO James D. Chaney.
Among the more unique donations were street signs for the City of Dawson Springs provided by Somerset, Elizabethtown, and Winchester. “Some things you’d never think of were what cities needed,” said KLC Member Relations Manager Terri Johnson.
Unbelievably, months later, eastern Kentucky cities experienced the state’s worst flooding in more than 100 years. As the “what do they need” calls, texts, and emails began, KLC sprang into action and began to provide those mountain cities with the same assistance it used for western Kentucky.
When the tornado occurred, Jenkins Mayor Todd DePriest joined other mayors and city officials who hit the road to western Kentucky. “We went because we thought it was the right thing to do,” he said, “never dreaming that these people would reciprocate their support for us a few months later. Nobody wants to be at the center of a disaster, but if you are, Kentucky is where you want to be.”
The City of Saint Matthews sent vehicles, equipment, and law enforcement assistance to the cities of Hindman and Jenkins for more than a month. When a small city requested a garbage truck, the City of Owensboro offered one. A Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government contingent helped several cities assess and replace water and sewer lines for weeks. One LFUCG firehouse donated a truck to a Fleming-Neon fire district. During the Kentucky Municipal Clerks Association summer academy, members delivered a donation to an eastern Kentucky city clerk who had lost her home in the flood.
Cities of all sizes, from very small to Louisville Metro, stepped up to lift their colleagues across the state. And the help continues. The City of Fort Mitchell delivered a Ford Explorer to the City of Wayland in mid-November.
Johnson said KLC is now seen as the place to go if a city needs something, not just during a crisis, but anytime. KLC is also working to create a webpage that will be active in early 2023, where cities can post and view surplus property. “We hope we never have to respond to enormous disasters again, but we learned a lot and are ready if we do,” said Chaney. “We are here to facilitate assistance between cities at any time.”
Knowing that KLC had become a point of contact for all kinds of donations, Plantation Mayor Becky Peak recently reached out to offer a Santa suit that needed a “good home.” Within 30 minutes of being announced in the KLC DirectLine newsletter, the suit was on its way to Hopkinsville Parks & Recreation.
“No donation is too big or too small,” said KLC Director of Member & Business Development Jeri McCullough.
The Santa suit is a perfect metaphor for “Cities Helping Cities.”
“Whether it’s a police cruiser or a Santa Claus suit, our city officials and employees share their gifts, spirit, and hopefulness. It’s generosity unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” said McCullough. Mayor O’Nan concurred. “That spirit connects us and continues to show the nation that our commonwealth is truly a blessed and powerful place.”