It was Wednesday, December 22nd, in the parking lot of the Peabody Wildlife Management Area near tornado-ravaged Dawson Springs, Kentucky.
Switzerland County’s Jeremy Robinson had pulled his food trailer to the area to provide some food and some Christmas cheer for the victims of the tornadoes as well as emergency workers and others on the scene.
About mid-day, a lady walked up to the Holy Smokin’ Pork & More food trailer. Soon she looked around and spied a cooler filled with soft drinks.
“You wouldn’t happen to have a Dr. Pepper in there, would you?” She asked Robinson. “I haven’t had a soft drink since the tornado hit. I’d really love a Dr. Pepper.”
Fishing around in the icy cooler, Robinson remembers that he brought a can of Dr. Pepper to the surface and handed it to the woman.
“Then, I walked into the trailer and came out with an entire case and handed it to her and said ‘Merry Christmas’,” he said. “We take so many things for granted. Those people hadn’t had a soda in a month. We can go get one at any time from all kinds of places. It makes you feel good that you can do things like that for people. Even something small means a lot to people.”
After having a rough 2021, including the loss of his son, Hunter, Robinson had a special bond with those people of Western Kentucky who in an instant had lost everything — so he decided he’d go and do what he could, he’d cook for everyone.
“It was a good trip,” he said quietly. “It’s one of those things that you hate to have to do, but you feel awful good when you do it.”
Robinson said that upon arriving in the area, he and others were directed to the lodge at Peabody, where more than 200 tornado victims were being housed.
“Basically a guy told me that they told everybody in the lodge that they had to leave unless they were from the area,” Robinson said. “If they were just there visiting, they had to leave, because they were going to fill all the rooms with people who had been hit by the tornado.”
Accompanying Robinson on the trip were his daughters: Whitney and Isabella; his mom, Rosemary Bovard; his aunt Carla Van Norstran; and friend Ron Margison from the Vevay VFW.
Robinson said that his mom began to continue agencies and others in the tornado area, getting an idea of where the group would be most needed.
“At first we were going to go to Mayfield, but then I saw that there were several trucks already there feeding people, so mom contacted people in other areas around there, and we found Dawson Springs.”
Robinson said that the Bennington Community Church made a donation to help with the supplies for the trip and money for gift cards; and the Vevay VFW Post #5396 contacted him with an offer to help buy the food that would be distributed.
“We served about 300 people that day,” he said. “And then I left enough food to serve 200-250 more the following day. We served the people in the lodge and workers. Some of the workers were trying to pay me, and I said, ‘You guys are donating your time, as well. You take the money and donate it to someone who needs it.”
Robinson said the people who were in the area helping with clean up and recovery were from all around the nation and from all backgrounds of life.
“One couple came walking up, and I noticed that they were dressed pretty nice,” he said. “I said, ‘We’ve still got food cooking’. It was about 3 p.m. and we were getting ready to close up. They were like, ‘Oh no, we just drove in from Missouri and we came to help’. They told me that their kids all lived out in California and they weren’t able to come home for Christmas, so they decided to drive over and spend Christmas there helping people.”
Robinson said that the overall organization of helping the tornado victims was incredible. He said that three semi trailers were parked next to each other with steps and ramps leading into each one. Inside, clothes were carefully sorted and available for anyone who needed them, from infants to adults; and one trailer was completely filled with cleaning supplies and personal hygiene supplies. Robinson said that volunteers from the American Red Cross and park officials from Peabody were coordinating many of the programs and benefits.
“They had a stack, it was as big as this building and probably 10 foot high, and before we could get a good picture of it, they had it all covered with tarps,” Robinson said. “The next day they were going to have a toy give away. That was all toys that had been donated. Inside one building they had a Christmas tree set up and there were stacks of toys and they were wrapped up and designated boys and girls and ages. People could go to that stack and pick two presents out. It was really well organized.”
At the food truck, Robinson said that he took a stack of $2 bills with him to the area, and gave them out to the children when they came with their families to get food. He said that the looks of the faces of those children made the long drive and long day worth every second.
He said that as the group got within about five miles of Dawson Springs, while on the Western Kentucky Parkway, they could see where the tornado crossed the interstate — and from there the damage just got worse.
“I bet there was a path 100 or 150 feet wide at least where the trees were just completely gone, just splintered,” Robinson said. “Once we pulled up on our off ramp, there were areas that didn’t look very bad, but once we arrived in Dawson Springs, if you would have looked to your left driving down the road, you would have never know anything had happened. You looked to your right, and it was gone. A school. All the businesses. Churches. Everything.”
It was a sight that was awful to view — and very humbling.
“I’d seen little tornadoes around here where it had flipped over a trailer and done a little bit of damage — but nothing of that magnitude,” Robinson said. “It was heartbreaking. The people all thanked us over and over.”