Hy-Vee, Casey's set up water distribution in Kentucky after devastation from tornadoes

·3 min read

After a series of tornadoes ravaged the South and Midwest over the weekend leaving at least 88 people dead, two of Iowa’s largest employers deployed dozens of volunteers to distribute food and water where the storm’s devastation is most widespread.

West Des Moines-based Hy-Vee and Ankeny-based Casey’s General Stores both sent teams to communities in Kentucky Monday to distribute water and food to displaced residents affected by the tornadoes' destruction. At least 74 Kentuckians were killed in the outbreak and around 100 people are still missing, according to reporting from the USA Today network.

Damages from the tornado outbreak could reach $18 billion, becoming the costliest such storms in U.S. history, according to AccuWeather.

It was Hy-Vee’s first full deployment of its new Disaster Recovery Fleet, Christina Gayman, a spokesperson for the grocery store chain said, recruiting 37 Hy-Vee employees to volunteer their time to assist with water and food distribution.

The fleet, intended to assist with disaster relief efforts in the U.S., includes 11 semi-truck trailers, six pick-up trucks and two SUVs filled with more than 300,000 bottles of water and more than 220,000 granola and snack bars.

Hy-Vee Disaster Relief Fleet deployed to Kentucky to assist communities in Madisonville, Mayfield and Bowling Green after devastating tornadoes killed at least 88 people from Arkansas to Illinois.
Hy-Vee Disaster Relief Fleet deployed to Kentucky to assist communities in Madisonville, Mayfield and Bowling Green after devastating tornadoes killed at least 88 people from Arkansas to Illinois.

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“As soon as we learned of the incredible tornado devastation in parts of Kentucky and Tennessee, we knew we had to send relief,” Randy Edeker, Hy-Vee’s CEO said in a statement. “In times of great need, like these, it’s important that we help in the way we know best — by providing essentials like food and water as well as a helping hand.”

The team departed from Kentucky Thursday, starting the nearly 500 mile journey back to Iowa, but Dawn Buzynski, a spokesperson for Hy-Vee that assisted the disaster relief team's efforts, said employees are looking forward to stepping up to future deployments of the Disaster Fleet.

"The devastation is unreal but we made a difference there," Buzynski said. "Showing the support and the care was just as important as passing out the water."

Gayman said Hy-Vee has been planning a sort of disaster relief fleet to assist Hy-Vee's efforts distributing water and food for years but the organization of the team was accelerated after a derecho swept Iowa in 2020.

"It's something that we had been working on pulling together before that, but once that [derecho] did take place, we saw that this is something that would be really great to have at our disposal and at the ready whenever we need it," Gayman said.

Destruction in Kentucky following devastating tornadoes that swept through late Friday, Dec. 10, 2021
Destruction in Kentucky following devastating tornadoes that swept through late Friday, Dec. 10, 2021

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On Monday, Casey’s team at the company's Ankeny Distribution Center also loaded and shipped a truckload of more than 30,000 bottles of water to Mayfield. The donation was sent to the city's chamber of commerce community donation site.

"It’s a small act that immediately helped our neighbors," Casey's spokesperson Katie Petru said in an email to the Register. "We are continuing to identify possible in-kind products and water to help the area impacted.

While Casey's donated $10,000 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief, customers round up their purchases to support the nonprofit until Dec. 31 or donate directly at redcross.org.

“The devastation, community uprooting and lives lost due to the tornadoes and storms this past weekend is overwhelming and will require an enormous recovery effort,” Casey’s CEO Darren Rebelez said in a statement. “We have team members and neighbors in these areas in need, and we have been working hard to support them.”

Hannah Rodriguez covers retail for the Register. Reach her at herodriguez@registermedia.com or on Twitter @byherodriguez.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Hy-Vee, Casey's team up for relief efforts after Kentucky tornadoes

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