Locals Donate To First Responders Recovering From Tornado

Firefighters in Mayfield, Kentucky, working through debris where the tornado hit the hardest. (Photo courtesy Jimmy Keelen)

  HOWELL – With the help of several residents, organizations and businesses in the area, two local responders drove 15 plus hours to Mayfield, Kentucky, to deliver supplies to a fire department affected by the recent tornado.

  On the night of December 10, a category EF4 tornado ripped through the city of Mayfield destroying shops, homes and every building in its path. One of the many buildings wrecked from the storm was the Mayfield Fire Department. Both their Fire Stations #1 and #2 were completely demolished with nothing but rubble left in the aftermath.

  Shortly after the devastation, good Samaritans from all over the county came together to help those recovering. Howell Township Police Lt. Joe Markulic and Jackson Township retired firefighter Jimmy Keelen partnered together and dove right in to help.

  “This is not my first rodeo. I’ve been to the World Trade Center, and Mayfield is just as devastating,” Keelen said.

Howell Township Police Lt. Joe Markulic (right) pictured with members of the Mayfield Fire Department after donating equipment. (Photo courtesy Jimmy Keelen)

  Keelen, who has been a fireman since 1976 and is a member at station 54 in Jackson, decided to collect hundreds of pieces of equipment and bring them down to the Mayfield Fire Department and First Aid.

  “Although I’m retired now in Virginia, what I do is help people out,” Keelen said. “The fire department in Jackson provides me goods to bring to my fire house in Virginia because they can’t afford new equipment. When I saw the devastation in Mayfield, I knew I wanted to bring anything the Jackson firehouse gave me to Kentucky. And that’s how it all started.”

  “Jimmy had the idea of collecting equipment and I joined in wanting to help the people of Mayfield. I spoke to some local fire departments in Howell and they contributed some supplies,” Markulic said.

  Together they collected nearly a half a million dollars’ worth of equipment from all over the state. They picked up items like pants, jackets, boots, gloves and more and filled an entire U-Haul truck with equipment.

  “We had at least 50 complete sets of turnout gear and about 40 full sets of breathing apparatus equipment,” Markulic said.

  “I put out on the firewire what we were collecting, and I couldn’t believe the response we got,” Keelen said.

  Once everything was collected, they began the long journey to Kentucky on December 17 and donated all the goods to the Mayfield firehouses.

Nearly a half a million dollars’ worth of equipment was collected and donated to first responders in Mayfield. (Photo courtesy Jimmy Keelen)

  While there, Markulic created a fundraiser through his Venmo account and was able to give the local fire department a check for $4,000.

  “Their only firetruck, which was a hand-me-down and was refurbished for $10,000, was destroyed from the tornado. That truck was their prized possession,” Markulic said. “The destruction… you know we’re driving out there and obviously what you see on TV is bad, but once you’re there in person, it was their whole town that was destroyed.”

  “We’ve seen it during hurricane Sandy, and that’s kind of why I wanted to go out there… I wanted to give back to those who went out of their way to help us. It’s good to see smiles on people’s faces, any way we can help out,” Markulic added.