Groups hold weekend of charity for storm victims

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Volunteer groups, civic organizations and government entities banded together through the weekend of April 29-May 1 as they collected and donated tens of thousands of items to the victims of the April 27 tornado outbreak.

Groups across the county canceled their ordinary weekend plans to collect and ship everything from bottled water to baby diapers to Tuscaloosa, the hardest-hit areas of Jefferson County and other damaged cities such as Cullman.

Two local groups said they set out to collect a few things to help those hit by the tornado, but ended up collecting much more than they anticipated.

The Pelham Police Department collected relief items, such as toiletries, baby items and food in the days following the storm, and shipped them over the weekend to the Salvation Army to distribute to the storm victims.

“We rented a 17-foot U-Haul, and we had that bad boy packed full when it left here,” said Pelham Police Department Executive Assistant Jennifer Smith. “We were so happy we got that much.”

The U-Haul truck contained five pallets of bottled water, a pallet of Huggies wipes, a “mass amount” of clothing and many other items, Smith said. It took police officers and firefighters about two hours to load the donations into the truck.

“The public has been so great about bringing in donations, but the need is going to be going on for a long time,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, this is not something that is going to go away quickly.”

The Pelham Police Department is still accepting donations at Pelham City Hall, at the police department, at Pelham Fire Station No. 1 behind City Hall, at the Pelham Civic Complex and at the Pelham Racquet Club and Ballantrae Golf Club.

On April 30, the Shelby Starlets also held a donation drive at the Alabaster Walmart, during which group members also collected more than they anticipated.

From 8 a.m. until about 3 p.m., members of Shelby Starlets, a local youth baton-twirling organization, accepted donations near the entrance to the store in Alabaster’s Colonial Promenade shopping center.

“It was absolutely amazing. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of this community,” said Alabaster resident Chiffon Bogue, who helped organize the drive.

Because the group began planning the event two days before they held it, Bogue said she did not anticipate a large response. But when the day was over, the group had collected nearly $3,000 in cash donations and more than 10,000 items.

“We had at least 15 people who walked in and brought out entire shopping carts full of donations,” Bogue said, noting the group distributed “need lists” to shoppers as they entered the store.

“We didn’t expect anything like we got. It was amazing,” Bogue added.