Holiday trip turns into a mission to help for some SC residents after tornadoes

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Published: Dec. 14, 2021 at 8:03 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Almost 600 miles away from Mayfield, Kentucky, two South Carolina residents are working to help their hometown after tornados turned the city into rubble and killed, injured, and displaced residents.

University of South Carolina graduate and staff Courtney Diaz is from Mayfield and says she still hasn’t completely processed the past few days of seeing her community in the news.

“It’s gut-wrenching, it really is,” Diaz said, “This weekend has been nothing but a blur. Who can I contact? Is everyone ok?”

She says even though she has been in South Carolina for almost four years, her heart is in Kentucky.

Diaz’s grandmother was in the path of danger the night of the tornados because she was staying in a nursing home and rehab facility that was completely destroyed.

“My Dad let me know that he had talked to [grandma] right after the event and she was wet, but she was ok,” Diaz said.

Diaz says the only thing her grandmother was able to rescue was a picture of her dog and her cell phone.

Diaz says the city is close-knit and resilient but will need help recovering. She said in a town like Mayfield, businesses rely on others to stay afloat. For example, she said one business may do banking and accounting with one down the street or may need licenses approved by government buildings that are now in ruins.

“It’s going to have to be a group effort. Even if your employees can come back to work. Can they do their job? Do they have what they need to do their job?” Diaz said.

A few blocks away from where Diaz works, fellow Kentucky-native Terri Schumpert spent the weekend frantically checking her phone while working at Higher Grounds Books and Beans, a coffee shop connected to First Baptist Church of Columbia.

“I have three cousins that I didn’t hear from until Sunday because they couldn’t get the word out,” Schumpert said.

Schumpert is from Paduch, Kentucky, a town about 15 minutes north of Mayfield but not nearly as hard hit.

“I have driven those streets my whole life, and I know the landmarks as you do when you drive a street your whole life. And I was looking at all the aerial footage and the drone footage and I couldn’t reconcile one landmark. I couldn’t get my bearings at all,” Schumpert said.

So, Diaz and Schumpert are turning their planned trip home for the holidays into a mission.

Diaz is fundraising on her personal Facebook page and Schumpert is collecting donations through her First Baptist community in Columbia to give directly to her church in Kentucky that is collecting gift cards and prepaid debit cards for known victims of the tornadoes.

Schumpert’s faith in her community was further solidified when she got a call Tuesday from an anonymous group willing to give her 100 times what she was hoping to fundraise, a dollar figure in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“What an awful time for this to happen but that’s when God shines the most,” she said.

To donate to Schumpert’s fundraiser, people can bring gift cards or pre-paid debit cards to Higher Grounds in downtown Columbia on Wednesday or mail them to:

Lone Oak First Baptist Church at 3601 Lone Oak Road Paducha, KY, 42003 Attn: Disaster relief.

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