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NEWS | Dec. 17, 2021

Santa’s helpers

By Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Crane Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

Four Kentucky Soldiers jumped into action after they heard tornadoes hit the western part of Kentucky, Dec. 10.

Sgt. 1st Class Gina Vaile-Nelson, Sgt. Jessica Jenkins, Staff Sgt. Billie Jacobs, Staff Sgt. Rachel Pete, all who work full time for the Kentucky National Guard as technicians or Active Guard Reserve, weren’t content just sitting back in Frankfort, away the affected areas.

Vaile-Nelson said that this is the first time in her career her main mission wasn't to physically go and be a part of the relief so she had to figure out another way to help.

"Monday and Tuesday both Sgt. Billie Jenkins and I were very aware that although we have important roles here at headquarters, something was missing, said Vaile-Nelson. "She's (Jenkins) an MP, I'm a former PAO and Battalion S1. This was the first disaster for me, in 17 years, where I wasn't actively involved in pushing people out the door in an admin capacity, or pounding the ground with fellow Guardsmen to tell their story."
They all felt useless.

But then they saw Kentucky’s First Lady, Britainy Beshear announce her Western Kentucky Toy Drive that has already received over 20,000 gifts, presented them with a new mission

"Do you think we can do this," asked Vaile-Nelson to her friend.

The answer was yes, nothing was going to stop these determined Soldiers.

They both started asking for donations from the command team, directorates and Joint Force Headquarters as well as putting out a Facebook post to their friends and family.
"We ended up raising $2,300. Plus, people from all over BNGC brought toys in," said Vaile-Nelson.

Retired Soldiers contacted started to contact her to drop off toys. Her neighbors and church friends in Taylorsville dropped toys off to her house Wednesday and Thursday. Red Tag Digital in Louisville donated two $500 gift cards for us to shop.

And the toys began to pile up.

"By the time we were finished, you can see what how much we accomplished,” she added. “We might not be down in the west, but we absolutely no longer feel useless. Hopefully this will make a child smile, and worry a little less.”

This is what it means to be #TeamKentucky, and it shows how a little dedication and out of the box thinking can boost your resilience and remind you that no matter your assignment you really are #AlwaysReady.

If you’d like to pitch in, go to for more information.

**Thank you to Sgt. 1st Class Gina Vaile-Nelson for contributing to this story.


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