From the hands who cooked to those who serve, Bowling Green is giving back to first responders

Posted at 6:19 PM, Dec 14, 2021

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WTVF) — They raised thousands of dollars to serve up meals for the first responders putting Bowling Green back together.

From the moment he began cooking to when it hit the plate, we’re talking 24 hours. It’s a labor of love for Eric Cotton, but days like this show him why he serves in the first place.

“As long as someone gets one hot meal, we’re happy,” Cotton said.

Not that there aren’t those days he thinks he may have bitten off more than he could chew. Cotton doesn’t have the biggest trailer, but he still made it his mission to deliver on his promise of 400 meals Tuesday afternoon. On days like these, you call in the reinforcements.

Cotton may be the man behind the meals, but it’s people like Liz Maynard who are sending meals to where they need to be.

Maynard’s husband works for the local fire department and teamed up with several other wives of first responders. They sent out a call to action on Facebook for neighbors to help deliver meals to the front lines.

“Families, friends. It’s unbelievable to see how Bowling Green has come together to help,” Maynard said.

By the time they ran out of food, nearly 700 meals had left the trailer. Tonya Blankenship brought 50 of those meals to her husband’s crew with Bowling Green Municipal Utilities.

She said it was the least she could do because “I’m not doing near what they are.”

From what we could tell, the meals were a welcomed break for the men working in what they could only describe as a war zone.

Homes were torn down to the foundation and power lines littered the street. For Andy Hughes, a free meal means it’s one less thing his team needs to worry about.

“It’s absolutely comforting. It takes a lot of pressure off knowing they get a warm meal coming in,” Hughes said.

To know what they go through to put this city back together and the 14-hour shifts is what makes this meal mean that much more.

Cotton plans to take a break to prepare more foods on Wednesday but says he’ll be back to offer more meals later in the week.

The Stuff the Bus Foundation raised $41,025 through several community partners. A local law firm, ELPO Law shared their parking lot and made a $20,000 donation. The rest was raised onsite and online to benefit the impacted families of Bowling Green Independent School District and Warren County Public Schools.

The Family Resource Centers in each district will direct dollars for whatever and wherever they’re needed most.