Fayette County

Lexington's homeless helping tornado's victims in Joplin

Catholic Action Center volunteers loaded donations into the tractor-trailer that will be driven to Joplin, Mo., to help victims of last week's tornado.
Catholic Action Center volunteers loaded donations into the tractor-trailer that will be driven to Joplin, Mo., to help victims of last week's tornado.

Thousands of people emerged from the wreckage of a deadly tornado in Joplin, Mo., last week and found themselves suddenly homeless.

There are those in Lexington who can relate — men and women who have lost everything "just through a turn of bad luck," said Bob Dobson, a volunteer with the Catholic Action Center shelter.

This weekend many of Lexington's homeless population from the center are working to lend a hand to those in Joplin.

Homeless volunteers are trying to fill a tractor-trailer with much-needed items to take to Joplin residents this week. The trailer will be in the parking lot of the Hamburg Wal-Mart at 2350 Grey Lag Way, accepting donations through Monday evening.

The items most needed are work gloves and men's work shoes, cleaning materials, toilet paper, garbage bags, personal care items, flashlights, batteries, socks, bleach, paper towels, paper plates, air mattresses, clear packing tape and non-perishable food.

The volunteers cannot accept clothes, said Richard Walton, another volunteer.

Ginny Ramsey, founder of the Catholic Action Center, said the idea was proposed by people living at a shelter. Folks spend much of their time watching TV, and they were struck by news of the devastation in Joplin since the tornado struck May 22.

"They were following it," Ramsey said. "They were sitting there saying 'We want to help.'"

Ellis Boatley was one of the advocates.

Boatley, who helped take donations Saturday, said he saw a little bit of himself in the victims of Joplin. He became homeless after losing his job and becoming dependent on drugs.

But through the kindness of others at the center, he has clothes, food and a roof over his head. He said he simply wants to pay it forward.

"I hope to be someone to come help them like God sent someone to come help me," he said.

Ramsey contacted the Christian Appalachian Project, a nonprofit organization that specializes in relief efforts, to borrow the tractor-trailer and help organize the drive.

It made sense to put the residents' plan into motion by putting their skills to use. Some are out-of-work builders, others have had experience with volunteer projects in Central Kentucky and some are veterans with experience in disaster areas.

Once the truck is loaded, 12 volunteers will caravan to Joplin and help distribute the items at the Joplin Family Worship Center, a FEMA-certified relief station.

The homeless volunteers making the trip had to provide their full names, birthdays and social security numbers — things the center typically doesn't ask its residents — for background checks to make sure "they aren't running from anything," Ramsey said.

The tractor-trailer was about half full Saturday evening, Ramsey said. Volunteers said they were pleased with the support, but that more donations would be welcome.

To donate, visit Wal-Mart before 9 p.m. Monday. The volunteers are stationed next to an unhitched tractor-trailer with a sign that says "Joplin Tornado Relief: Homeless Sharing Hope."

Monetary donations can also be made on site or by credit card at Godsnet.info or ChristianApp.org.