Editor’s note: This opinion piece appeared in the Dec. 16 issue of the Central Kentucky News Journal.
By Dr. H Keith Spears, president of Campbellsville University
During the past year, as president of Campbellsville University, I have made it a point to meet with community leaders. We have discussed the importance of developing a “Great” college town and community. It has been an honor to represent this great institution in its namesake city and the county from which it was founded.
Elsewhere in this newspaper you will see an article on the economic impact that CU has on this region. But, this region has also had an impact on this university. These effects go beyond mere dollars and cents.
This past weekend demonstrated the critical nature of this community relationship. The terrible tornado disaster that struck Taylor County and regions of the Commonwealth, as well as other states, made us all stand still and take stock of our surroundings. From our own fears during the early morning hours of December 11th to the outward pouring of action to help those affected by this storm shows a sense of love and brotherhood/sisterhood that exists in this community.
As the sun came up Saturday, the stricken area was filled with first responders, who initially came in the dark hours, searching for lost people and helping to rescue the injured. Volunteers came with pickups and chainsaws to clear the way for ambulances. Churches and community action organizations amassed water, food and clothing by noontime. The response in Taylor County was swift and positive.
On the university front, we are using our vacant student housing in the relief effort. We are taking in families, who have lost homes or have homes uninhabitable until repaired. CU will be hosting recovery mission groups coming in from all over the U.S., providing warm, comfortable lodging.
The university development team has started a donation point with funds going directly to people who have been injured, displaced or otherwise harmed by this violent act of nature. And, the university counseling teams are working with affected individuals as they seek to cope with what many could consider the unimaginable.
The university efforts are only part of the bigger picture that we have witnessed. On Monday night of this week, we were part of the ministerial group that met at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, a logical focal point within a few hundred yards of the tornado’s path. The Christian response was solid. Pastors and deacons left their denominations at the door. No one was concerned about who was getting credit for what. The needs of others were on their hearts and minds.
Social media has connected us with a multitude of support groups, each doing something that is for the betterment of our neighbors. “Neighbors,” a key term for no matter how far we may be removed from the actual point of destruction. Neighbors. That’s what we are and remain to be. I encourage you to reach out your hand to your neighbors.
Dr. H. Keith Spears is the 11th President of Campbellsville University