More than half the population of Ashland, the county seat of Benton County, enjoyed a hot meal Friday, thanks to volunteers from Union County.
Benton County and Marshall County, both near-by neighbors of Union, were struck hard by the winter storm that passed through the area Tuesday. Union County, for the most part, was untouched by the destructive part of the storm.
However, people in much of Benton and Marshall Counties have been without electricity for going on 100 hours.
People in Ashland were shivering, hungry in their dark homes.
Thursday evening, Ashland Mayor Mitch Carroll acted to get his people some help. Working with Benton County’s Emergency Management Director Jimmy Grisham he contacted the Mississippi Emergency Management (MSEM) office in Jackson.
He needed hot meals for 325 hungry Ashland residents the next day – Friday. The MSEM people in Jackson knew exactly what help to send to Ashland. It was nearby, well equipped, well led, and willing. A few years ago, Union County Emergency Management (UCEM) Director Curt Clayton acquired, through state emergency management resources, a state of the art field kitchen. It is transportable to wherever needed, equipped to prepare meals for hundreds of people, and can be towed by a heavy-duty pickup truck. There was no direct cost to Union County taxpayers in acquiring the field kitchen.
Clayton contacted the “Soup for Souls” unit of the Union County Baptist Association and took the field kitchen to Ashland. Meals were served Friday to 360 Ashland residents, 35 more than Mayor Carrol requested. Ashland had a population in 2020 of 551. Curt Clayton expects to serve a similar number of hot meals during the day on Saturday. American Red Cross volunteers also assisted with the effort.
Electric service to Ashland is provided by the Holly Springs Utility Department, which has thus far been unable to restore power to Ashland and much of the rest of its service area.