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A view from NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite taken at 11:46 pm CST on December 10, 2021

The evening of Dec. 10, 2021, didn’t feel much like December at all for much of the Southeast. The weather was warm and muggy, and severe storms were firing up across eight states, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). By daybreak, 66 confirmed tornadoes had killed more than 80 people, and over 400 storm damage reports had been filed according to the NWS. 

When Landstar independent owner-operator James Walden of Williamsburg, Kentucky, heard about the widespread tragedy and saw the need of families in his own state of Kentucky, he took action.

“I was running a dedicated lane that I had finished. I told my wife I’ve got some time on my hands, I need to do something. I was talking to a couple of preachers in my area who were fundraising and gathering supplies, and I said, ‘I wonder if I can get Landstar to loan me a trailer to save you a freight bill.’” 

Landstar loaned him the trailer. A team of community volunteers loaded the trailer to the brim with water, clothing, mattresses and other donated supplies. Then, Walden set out for Paducah, Kentucky.

On his way, he got a call from church members in Paducah who asked that the donations be rerouted to a community with an even greater need. So, Walden changed course and made it to Clarksville the morning of Dec. 28. Walden said it took a team of 20 volunteers over three hours to unload everything.

“The outpouring of my community was awesome,” Walden said. As he thought about the experience, he got emotional, noting it was the children who impacted him the most.

"The kids got me more than anything. Knowing they didn’t have a Christmas broke my heart. People were thanking me, and I would say to them the only thanks you need to give me is to pray with me. I heard about it and the Lord moved me to work on it. If I could have taken two or three more trips out there, I would have.”

Walden was nominated for a Landstar Star of Quality for his act of service by a tornado victim in Clarksville. Before Walden even knew of his Star of Quality nomination, he nominated Landstar independent owner-operator Brandon Wright for his work gathering and staging supplies for the Cave City, Kentucky, community impacted by the tornadoes. Walden saw the work Wright was doing on social media and his efforts to collect and distribute supplies. Since both men were from communities impacted by the tornadoes, Wright’s efforts stood out to Walden.

In his nomination letter for Wright, Walden wrote, “Brandon is just one of the many that make the star at Landstar shine bright, and is an example for others to follow.”

Walden and Wright both pointed to the role social media played in helping their communities get the help and donations they needed. Several BCOs responded to requests for help in moving donations from one community to another.

“I don’t think I did anything out of the ordinary, lots and lots of people did way more than I did.” Wright said in an interview about the Star of Quality award.



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