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First lady Jill Biden marked the start of Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend by volunteering at a recovery center in Kentucky on Friday to help out the community after deadly tornadoes hit the state last month.
"As we held our holiday dinner, as we said our Christmas prayers, the families of Kentucky were on our minds. And today, at the start of MLK Day weekend, a time where we come together to serve in our own ways, helping build Dr. King's Beloved Community, I want you to know that we are going to keep that promise," Biden said.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday, is also officially designated as a national day of service.
Ninety people have been confirmed dead as a result of the tornadoes, which ripped through eight states last month on what is believed to be the deadliest December day of storms in U.S. history.
The president visited Kentucky last month, surveying tornado damage and promising to do whatever it takes it help the state recover. The first lady said that ever since the president's visit, survivors of the tornado have stayed in their thoughts.
She praised the volunteer work that has been done so far in the community.
"I know it probably felt more like an end than the beginning. Yet something new has begun," she said. "It's a beginning that looks like ... lines of people donating blood for those most in need. It tastes like the hot meals from the food trucks that we saw that traveled miles and miles to feed the hungry. It feels like the warmth of a borrowed generator for families with no power. And it sounds like the soft prayers of comfort and healing from friends and strangers alike."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) State Disaster Recovery Center in Bowling Green, Ky., where Biden volunteered, has provided nonperishable food, clothing, toys and books for residents, all of which are donated and people can take for free.
The first lady was joined on her visit on Friday by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D); his wife, Kentucky first lady Britainy Beshear and Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.).
Biden and Guthrie teamed up to work through a box of children's clothes, putting them on hangers.
"Somebody is going to love that," she said about a red and black shirt with a spider on it and put it on a hanger. She also said, "that's my fit" about a Philadelphia Eagles shirt.
Biden checked out an area with nonperishable food, toys, and books at the center, an area where FEMA has laptops set up to meet with survivors and help them apply for funds, as well as areas for mental health services and COVID-19 testing.
In her remarks, the first lady spoke about the grief of losing a home and ended on an optimistic tone for people struggling.
"It will take time to make this beautiful place home again. But what we've seen - what we've all seen today - is there is faith here too. And there's so much strength and there is so much hope," she said.
Earlier on Friday, Biden visited Bowling Green's Creekwood neighborhood, where she spoke to residents and surveyed the damaged homes.
She spoke to a family whose home had boarded-up windows, and was seen hugging them at the end of their conversation.
Biden also talked to two young girls and their mother, who told the first lady that her 4-year-old daughter was injured in the tornado.
"We are getting help," the mom said, adding, "we are so grateful."