Meta Dunn was driving to work at The FruitGuys Chicago warehouse listening to radio reports of the devastation from the massive tornado that destroyed miles of Moore, Oklahoma, killing 24 people including 9 children, when she thought, “What can we do to help?”
Meta contacted her local couriers and produce vendors on the Chicago International Produce Market. Word and goodwill spread, and within 24 hours, donations came in including about $20,000 worth of produce, water, toiletries, and other goods, and a refrigerated truck and driver to deliver it all to Oklahoma City.
“I want to thank those [in The FruitGuys] who provide[d] me with ideas and connections to help make this thing possible,” said Meta in a May 24 email to FruitGuys employees. “None of this would be possible if it weren't for the generosity of everyone here in Chicago on the market – as well as those we don't work [with], have been so gracious to give and support in ways that they can. It's truly amazing the outpouring of support that [they] all have given.”
Meta especially noted the generosity of Brad Westrom, president of United Express Systems, Inc, which provides trucking services for The FruitGuys, who arranged for the loan of a 52-foot refrigerated truck from Xtra Lease, and paid for a driver, gas, as well as provided other logistical support. “Without that connection, this thing would never have been possible. Brad has generously donated a driver and fuel and worked with one of his contacts to get the truck donated in this effort,” Meta wrote.
The truck was loaded with fresh fruit and vegetables, such as apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, mangoes, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, potatoes, all donated by generous produce vendors in the Chicago area, including Evergreen International, City Wide Produce Distributors, Atom Banana, Dietz and Kolodenko, JAB Produce, Panama, Jack Tuchten Wholesale Produce, Strube Celery & Vegetable Company, Michael J. Navilio and Son, Olympic Wholesale Produce, La Galera Produce, Anthony Marano Company, Cornille & Sons, and other donors.
Through FruitGuys Aaron Smith, Christopher Peterson organized a parents group to donate essential supplies such as water and toiletries, while Meta worked with Christian Life Church, the Mount Prospect Public Library, Ba'Ruch Ministries, and Wanda Leopold from Organic Networking to secure further donations.
Meta and her daughter KeAndrea drove from Chicago to Oklahoma City during Memorial Day weekend to supervise the delivery of the donations to Feed the Children in Oklahoma City. Meta said Feed the Children coordinated with many local churches to deliver pallets of fruits, vegetables, and goods to shelters and churches including St. John's Lutheran Church, Abundant Life Church, and Church of the Nazarene in Moore, as well as several others in Oklahoma City.
Meta is from Mt. Prospect, IL and has worked for The FruitGuys since July 2011. She said the company paid for her time off on Friday. “Meta's generosity, tenacity and ability to move quickly and rally other Chicagoland businesses to do the same, is simply inspiring,” said FruitGuys CEO Chris Mittelstaedt. “As a company we believe that at our core we are in service to others and Meta’s actions this week truly exemplify this.”
WAYS TO HELP OKLAHOMA Consider donating to these agencies to help the survivors of the Moore, Oklahoma tornado:
Feed The Children, Oklahoma City Feed the Children is providing food, water, blankets and other supplies to tornado victims. The organization is accepting diapers, canned goods, non-perishable food, snack items, water, sports drinks, and cash donations. Text DISASTER to 80888 to make a $10 donation. After receiving a confirmation message you must type "yes" to complete the donation. Cash and corporate donations can be made online or by phone at 1-800-627-4556.
Church of the Harvest, Oklahoma City, is coordinating outside groups and individuals traveling to the area to volunteer. Their website tells you how to volunteer or donate. Pastor Kirk Pankratz is director of operations. (405)478-7373
St. John's Lutheran Church is providing direct relief to tornado victims as well as collecting donations of water, batteries, plastic storage boxes, and other needed items. 1032 NW12th Street, Moore, OK 73160. (405)794-5462
Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief says it has deployed at least 80 volunteers to respond to severe weather in Oklahoma. Those interested in helping can make a tax-deductible donation to the BGCO's Disaster Relief ministry online or call (405) 942-3800. You may also send checks to: BGCO Attn: Disaster Relief 3800 N. May Ave. Oklahoma City, OK 73112.
Samaritan's Purse Samaritan's Purse, which provided relief to residents of Moore after the devastating tornado in 1999, deployed two Disaster Relief Units from their North Carolina headquarters before dawn on Tuesday. One will be based in Moore, and the other in Shawnee. Samaritan's Purse is looking for volunteers to help with the relief effort. You can donate online or by phone at 1-800-528-1980. To give by mail, please send donations to: Samaritan's Purse, P.O. Box 3000, Boone, NC 28607-3000.
Save the Children Save the Children is mobilizing staff to provide support, relief and recovery services to communities and families in Oklahoma. The organization is prepared to deploy their Child Friendly Space kits in shelters, creating safe play areas for kids. They are also ready to deploy infant and toddler hygiene materials to support young children displaced from their homes. Text TWISTER to 20222 to donate $10 to Save the Children and help the response effort. You can donate online or call 1-800-728-3843.
Operation Blessing International Operation Blessing International, a Virginia-based humanitarian group, is deploying to Moore, after working on tornado relief in Granbury, Texas, following last week's storm there. A caravan of OBI emergency equipment was sent to Moore, including a construction unit, mobile command center, trucks full of tools and supplies, and a team of construction foremen. You can donate to the group online or donate by phone at 1-800-730-2537.