Local tornado relief effort mobilized

Jessica Sleeman thinks she might have found her calling. Helping strangers.

For the second time in just more than a month, she will bring aid to a community affected by a disaster.

This morning, Sleeman plans to lead a caravan of two SUVs and a pickup truck packed with supplies to the Moore, Okla., site of the nation's deadliest tornado since 2011. Sleeman said she has collected supplies such as food, water, diapers, clothes, baby formula and toys.

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Baird

Jessica Sleeman packed her SUV with supplies for people affected by Monday's tornado in Moore, Okla. She plans to leave today for Moore with two other vehicles carrying supplies.

The wife of a Cannon Air Force Base airman and a mother of two, Sleeman said after the April explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, that killed 12 firemen and paramedics, she drove her SUV filled with supplies to the affected families. She said after that trip she knew what she wanted to do with her life; help people after disasters.

Since her husband is a firefighter, she said the fertilizer plant incident hit close to home.

"I went through beauty school to help people feel beautiful, but it was unsatisfying," Sleeman said. So she quit. At the time she delivered the supplies in West, she said "I had no career, and I had just turned 30. I felt like I was not doing anything with my life. I wanted to do something to actually help people."

Sleeman, who is from Las Vegas, Nev., said she drummed up support for this relief convoy to Oklahoma by making postings on Facebook, and other websites. Sleeman said posting on her Facebook page called High Plains Happenings, a page devoted to aggregating activities and entertainment information in the Clovis-Portales region, was particularly instrumental in letting people know what she was doing. Sleeman said she has also been in contact with a resident of Moore by the name of Tiffany. Sleeman said she got a call from a stranger who wanted to travel to Oklahoma and deliver supplies too.

"As soon as I saw she (Sleeman) was doing this I said, 'Sign me up,'" said Aida Aguirre of Portales. Aguirre said she has been busy contacting churches and using Facebook to find people who will donate to her cause.

"They need help. They need supplies, so we're going to get it to them," Aguirre said.

Sleeman said the volunteer driving the third vehicle will be a tech sergeant in the Air Force named Kevin Everett.

Sleeman and her crew are not the only ones looking to help the people of Moore.

According to an e-mail sent by Pastor Keith Kluthe, Parkland Baptist Church is collecting donations of bottled water, bottled sports drinks, diapers, and formula. This church is also accepting cash donations. The supplies and money will be dropped off at a sister church in the effected community and the supplies will leave for Oklahoma Friday morning.

Erinn Burch of the United Way of Eastern New Mexico said her organization will be accepting cash donations that will be sent to the United Way of Central Oklahoma where it will be dispersed to help tornado survivors.

The tornado that tore through Moore killed 24 people and destroyed countless homes in this suburb of Oklahoma City. The tornado was measured as an EF5, which is the most dangerous and most destructive on the Fujita scale.

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