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May 23, 2013

Unsheltered International leads local effort to help storm victims

WEST POINT — From their hometown of Cullman, to Joplin, Mo., and even Staten Island, NY., Dr. Travis Sharpe and members of Unsheltered International have provided hot meals, shelter, and delivered supplies to those in need after a natural disaster.

Now, just days after a devastating EF-5 tornado left the town of Moore, Okla., in shambles, the group is hitting the road once again and heading to the Midwest to offer assistance with cleanup efforts. The initial volunteer group of seven left Cullman Wednesday with a mobile kitchen unit, and a trailer of supplies. It’s anticipated they’ll be gone for two weeks.

“What we found out after the April 27 tornadoes here is that after the 14-day mark, a lot of emergency operations stopped and the long-term recovery began,” Sharpe said. “While we’re there, we’ll provide hot meals and other things to the emergency responders, families, and others. Then, at the two-week mark we’ll assess things and go from there.”

Unsheltered International’s disaster relief ministry started abruptly as part of a joint venture with Temple Baptist Church on April 27 two years ago after an EF-4 tore through downtown Cullman. The group worked for two straight weeks cooking and serving over 50,000 hot meals, organized a household goods and food pantry that assisted over 700 families and coordinated hundreds of volunteers.

“It was then that we said if the people of Cullman needed so much help that there were other people that needed it, too,” Sharpe said.

He said work to prepare for the trip to Oklahoma began Monday night.

“We immediately began getting things together when we began to hear how bad the storm was. So far, everything has come together.”

Temple Baptist donated $8,000 to get things started for the group. By Tuesday night, numerous amounts of non-perishable food items had been dropped off.

“The response we’ve gotten from Cullman County has been wonderful,” Sharpe said.

Because the group isn’t exactly sure where they’ll be working, as of yet, Sharpe didn’t have an idea as to how they could utilize volunteers.

“Once we get there and assess things and get things rolling, then we’ll ask for volunteers,” he said.

In the meantime, the group is still accepting donations. Updates on what is needed can be found by visiting www.unsheltered.org, or by visiting the Unsheltered International Facebook page.

* Ashley Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 135, or by email at agraves@cullmantimes.com

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