Patrick Younts knows what it's like to be left homeless by a disaster. So when the 5-year conservation officer for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources learned of houses leveled by a tornado in West Liberty last Friday, he spearheaded a personal campaign to provide desperately needed supplies to the victims.
"I was sitting at the table with my wife that night, and I said, 'What can we do?' So I called Bart Patton at the Booneville Shopwise grocery store," said Younts, a Booneville resident. "He agreed to match me for every dollar that I raised."
Younts was a man with a mission. He called co-workers. He called friends. He stopped by every house on the way to Patton's store to ask people to help. "I raised about $800 in 30 minutes," Younts said – enough to fill his pickup truck with desperately needed canned goods and bottled water for the tornado victims.
Lt. Jim Harrison, Sixth District law enforcement commander for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, said Younts had a personal motivation to help. "Patrick lost his home to a fire about two years ago," Harrison said. "He was on his way back from working at Herrington Lake when his wife called and told him that their house had burned to the ground. His wife and son were safe, but they just lost everything."
Younts' community and co-workers responded with an outpouring of support. The officer never forgot their compassion and generosity.
"When I lost my house, it humbled me," Younts said. "I'm giving back because people came and helped me. I decided that I would give back to the people who need it the most."
Younts said the destruction in West Liberty stunned him. "I've never seen anything like it in my life," he said. "What you see on TV doesn't do any justice to the amount of damage there. I saw people crying when they visited their house – everything was destroyed. It was like the buildings were made out of newspaper and they just got shredded."
Younts helped victims recover items from the remains of their houses, including some much-needed medical oxygen tanks.
"I know what it's like to lose everything," Younts said. "One day you're in your house and the next day it's gone."
The officer is still raising funds to put together personal kits for victims: sanitizer, blankets, diapers, toiletries, toothpaste and other supplies. He wants to assemble 30-40 kits to help those in need.
Younts said his motivation is simple. "I'm not doing anything that anyone else wouldn't do," he said.