(LaPorte, IN) - It was a simple plan: gather a truckload of emergency supplies and lend a helping hand to storm-ravaged Kentucky.
LaPorte’s Matt Mrozinski watched last week's news reports intently. He lived in the South for many years and still has connections in Tennessee and Kentucky. Mrozinski’s son is a volunteer firefighter locally. Seeing the devastation propelled them into action. “My son wanted to go so bad, and he asked me if I would take him down there,” Mrozinski said. “And I told him if we can get a trailer full of stuff, I’ll drive down with you.”
After a Facebook post and a few days’ time, the single trailer has become a convoy.
Mrozinski says he has been flooded with donations and offers to help. At last count, he has lined up three semis and eight trucks with cargo trailers. Supplies have poured in from Knox, Plymouth, Valparaiso, St. John, and Berrien Springs. Mrozinski has received monetary donations from friends in Alabama, Colorado, and California. The donated goods include 570 bales of hay for livestock, a full semi of people food, pet supplies, clothes, and Christmas toys for children. A local business even threw in extra wrapping paper.
On Saturday volunteers are sorting donations to save the Kentucky recipients the trouble of organizing down there. “A lot of people who came out and donated brought laundry baskets and garbage bags full of stuff, and we don’t want them [in Kentucky] to be burdened with sorting,” Mrozinski said. “So we’re going to be putting boxes together; we’re going to be sorting everything, and we’ll mark it so we know what is going to which location.”
Through a LaPorte connection, most of the donations are destined for Bremen, Kentucky, a rural area between Evansville and Bowling Green. Mrozinski said the town of just 350 residents suffered eleven deaths with nearly 70 children and their families left homeless.
Mrozinski views the trip as an opportunity for unity and healing. “Having lived in the South, I understand Southern hospitality,” he said while picking up donations at a LaPorte doctor’s office Friday. “They’re the nicest, God-fearing, compassionate people. And I know they wouldn’t hesitate to do the same thing. So I said I want to show Southern hospitality what Hoosier hospitality is like.”
LaPorte’s Christmas convoy will leave town Sunday at noon. Mrozinski says he will return in a couple of days but plans to go back to Kentucky with a handful of family members next weekend.