The depth of connections between the Kentucky communities impacted by the Dec. 10 tornadoes and Middle Tennessee is outstanding and heartbreaking.
I've taken solace in the helpers, like Mr. Rogers taught us.
One of those helpers is MTSU graduate and small business owner Jack Brunson. He is offering the product of his skills to help raise money for his hometown of Mayfield, Kentucky.
Brunson owns the online guitar shop Jack's Guitarcheology. His lifetime love of music lead him to Murfreesboro from Mayfield, Kentucky, and a degree in music business from MTSU. He started a side hustle rebuilding busted guitars, basses and other string instruments and selling them to other musicians.
This side hustle became a full-time gig last year with his online store. He is opening a brick-and-mortar store Jan. 7, 2022, at 107 Public Square in Lebanon.
But what he's focused on now is helping his friends, family and former neighbors.
Mayfield was hit hard by the 2021 Western Kentucky tornado, which laid a 163-mile swath of destruction across western Kentucky.
"It is absolutely heartbreaking. My heart has been aching for my hometown, and I am going to give back in the only way I know how. I am going to help raise some money to get my friends and family in West Kentucky some relief," Brunson said.
Brunson has watched on social media as old classmates, neighbors, bandmates and friends post about everything they have lost, including one friend, who lost her home and four-year-old son to the storm.
"The 120+ year old church I went to Cub Scouts in, demolished. The court square where I went Christmas shopping as a child is rubble. The root beer float stand my Grandmother took me to on weekends is demolished, and the owners are calling it quits after 60 years of business. Every childhood memory I had from the ages of seven until 18 is just gone," Brunson said.
To help process the emotions of the destruction of Mayfield, Brunson did what he did best and built a "partscaster" guitar. Brunson takes pieces of broken string instruments and reassembles, paints and tests them to create something original and new.
The new guitar represents his hometown, and he is holding a raffle to raise money for nonprofits in Graves County, Kentucky.
Brunson knows people want to help our neighbors in Kentucky, but don't know how. He will be posting recommended charities throughout the next few weeks on Jack's Guitarcheology profiles on Instagram and Facebook.
"The two I would briefly mention are the Mayfield and Graves County United Way and any crowdfunding set up for my middle school classmate who lost her home and young son, Huda Alubahi," he said.
Another suggestion for where to donate came from Rutherford Countian, Kathy Tyson, who ran for La Vergne Board of Mayor and Aldermen. She grew up in Dawson Springs and still has family there.
She said people have been asking her about how to make the most of their donations, so she offered some advice.
"When I lived in Dawson Springs, I’d go to the midnight candlelight Christmas service at this church. It was beautiful, amazing, and very touching," she said. "They are accepting monetary donations to care for people in the community. It’s where I’m donating for my parents’ Christmas gifts (they don’t want gifts, their hearts are with their little city). If you care to, this would be an excellent place to start. Of course Red Cross and others are good, but this goes directly back into the bigger picture - they need help too."
Sent your donations to First Christian Church, PO Box 77, Dawson Springs, KY 42408.
Jack's Guitarcheology Raffle
Here's the tech tuff: The guitar is an original S-Style body, reliced and assembled by Brunson. The body is paulownia, so the guitar weighs in at just around 6 pounds, maple neck with an oil finish, for a real wood feel, and stunning MOP blocks, and Post-lawsuit 1980s MIK pickups and electronics.
"It's a great playing, sounding and looking guitar," Brunson said. More importantly to Brunson, it is red and black, the Mayfield High School colors.
What is up for grabs?
• The partscaster that Brunson built.
• Your next set of Stringjoy guitar and bass strings
• Nashville Guitar Works deluxe strap
• Fender gig bag and cable
• Jack's Guitarcheology T-shirt and sticker pack
Three steps to enter
1. LIKE/FOLLOW: Jack's Guitarcheology on Instagram or Facebook.
2. TAG/SHARE: Tag 3 friends in the comments and/or share this post.
3. DONATE / VOLUNTEER: This is the most important step. Without this step, your entry will not be submitted. To complete this step you can either:
• DM or email Brunson a screenshot of a receipt of donation of any amount to any charity or GoFundMe relating to the Mayfield/ Graves County (or surrounding areas) tornado damage or candle factory tragedy,
• DM or email a selfie of you doing boots on the ground volunteer work in the area, or
• Email us a 500+ word letter about mutual aid work you are actively working on presently, or related mutual aid work you have completed in the past.
Direct all emails to email@example.com.
The winner will be selected by random number generation on Jan. 3, 2022.
"Any donation amount means any donation amount. The person who donates $.01 will have the same entry as the person who donates $1,000. This is about doing as much good as we can within our respective budgets," Brunson said.
Even if you don't play guitar, you can enter to win, Brunson said. The winner can opt to donate it back to Brunson with the proceeds benefiting a Graves County nonprofit of your choosing, or you can keep the money (but that's greedy).
"This means a lot to me, and any bit you can help could change lives," Brunson said.