‘Servanthood at its best’: CATA students, teachers headed to Lee Co.; donations welcome

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Cullman Lions Club President Mike Ponder presents a check to CATA Health Science Club President Gracie Simmons as other Health Science students look on, including Destiny Hunt, Yulissa Dios, Paige Mullins, Alexis Jenkins, Tamela James, Cheyenne Key, Chase Dupree, Kenna Sharpton and Hunter Needham. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – On Thursday, April 18, a group of students from the Cullman Area Technology Academy (CATA), led by Health Science teachers Tracy Smith and Adrian Basch, will travel to storm-stricken areas of Lee County to join in tornado relief efforts and deliver gifts from area businesses, churches and individuals. 

On Thursday of this week, CATA issued a press release reading in part:

This year our senior health science class chose as our mission to serve others. Our organization is constantly looking for ways to serve members of our community.

On Sunday, March 3, Lee County, Alabama was hit by a horrific tornado.  This storm killed 23 people, including 3 children.  When we heard about the devastation, we knew we wanted to help in any way possible.

Shortly after the storms, we reached out to Lee County to see what their needs were.  At that point, they were just trying to come to terms with the aftermath.  Upon returning from our spring break, we reached out to Lee County Board of Education and Lee County EMA.  At that point, they were better equipped to tell us their needs.  Specifically, their needs now include monetary/gift cards, physical labor to help with cleanup and working in the warehouse to organize donations for delivery.

Next Thursday, April 18, students from Cullman Area Technology Academy and faculty will travel to Lee County to help members of the EMA and Board of Education.  Our volunteers will be out in the devastated areas working hand in hand with the EMA to assist with cleanup and sorting through belongings.  Also, volunteers will be at the long term donation warehouse in Opelika, sorting through donations and packaging them for delivery.

On Thursday of this week, the Cullman Lions Club joined the effort by visiting CATA to present a $1,500 check to the Health Science department for the project.

Smith told The Tribune, “Cullman Lions Club is presenting a donation to CATA volunteers who are going to Lee County next Thursday.  We’re taking a group of 45 students to Lee County to do actual physical labor to help them with their recovery.  We’re also making donations, as far as gift cards and such, to that community.  They’ve sort of been forgotten about.  That community’s been hit hard; there were 23 lost lives, three were children.

“Our Health Science seniors, they want to do a lot of community service outreach, and this was their idea.  But it’s campus-wide, our entire campus.”

The group of 45-50 students, representing all of CATA’s programs, will be accompanied by Smith and Basch, along with precision machining teacher Tim White, engineering teacher Mike Gay and automotive technology teacher Tim Melton, with Cullman County Board of Education (CCBOE) volunteers Teresa and Franklin Fincher.

After presenting the Lions’ check, club President Mike Ponder shared, “We’re one of the largest service organizations around.  We raise money to put it back into the community.  We’re so experienced around here with having tornadoes, and it’s a blessing to be able to help someone else, some tornado victims that’s going through what we’ve been through.  It’s wonderful that these seniors here are willing to be able to go down there and help.”

Donors to the cause include numerous individuals, including CATA faculty members and their families, along with:

* Cullman Lions Club

* Cullman Lioness Club

* Logan Methodist Church

* Thomas Cabinet Shop

* Reggie Freeman

* Fastenal (Hartselle)

* Ferrell Seymour, a Lee County principal and Cullman County Schools graduate, is arranging for the team to be fed while on site.

Teresa Fincher said other churches have also committed to sending in contributions before the team leaves next Thursday morning.  She expected that they will be able to deliver around $3,500 in monetary gifts and gift cards to storm victims.  Donors have also supplied three large bags of kids’ books, which will be given to the school classes of the three children killed in the storm.

Said Basch, “It was the kids’ idea to reach out and do as much community service this year as we possibly could, and so all the credit goes to these kids. And it being led in the beginning with the Health Science kids, I mean, this is what we go into.  Our careers are about being servants to others.  Servanthood at its best.”

Get involved!

CATA can no longer take cash donations after Friday, April 12, but will still accept gift cards to be distributed in Lee County through Wednesday, April 17.  To give, or for more information, contact CATA at 256-734-7740.

In a press release, CATA shared, “Businesses located in the Lee County area include Wal-Mart, Kroger, ALDI, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Tractor Supply and Dollar General.  Please consider one of these businesses when buying gift cards.  These donations will be given to those in need when needs arise by leaders of recovery teams and other community leaders of Lee County.”

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com