Students at St. Andrew Apostle School in Silver Spring help sort supplies the school and parish collected to assit victims of deadly tornadoes in Little Axe, Okla.
Students at St. Andrew Apostle School in Silver Spring help sort supplies the school and parish collected to assit victims of deadly tornadoes in Little Axe, Okla.
For the second time this school year, members of St. Andrew Apostle's parish and school communities in Silver Spring have rallied to help those affected by natural disaster.

The parish and school collected and delivered supplies to the people of Little Axe, Ok., a small community not far from Moore and Oklahoma City that was particularly hard hit during last month's deadly tornado storms.

Several communities is Oklahoma's "tornado alley" have suffered severe damage in the wake of a series of twisters last month measuring between EF3 and EF5 on the Fujita scale. The scale classifies those storms as "severe," "devastating" and "incredible" and packing winds of between 158 and 318 miles per hour.

In November, the parish and school conducted a similar drive to aid those affected Hurricane Sandy that slammed into parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States, killing more than 120 people and causing billions of dollars in property damage.

"The people of St. Andrew are responding to the call to love others and to help others. This is how a vibrant parish should react," said Father Dan Leary, pastor of the parish.

On May 31, students and volunteers loaded a 16-foot truck with relief and recovery supplies that will be used by the people of Little Axe as they rebuild their lives and their community.

"The response is tremendous," said Soley Somma, a member of the parish whose son is a pre-kindergarten student at the school. "We've had a great outpouring from families, students and their parents."

Somma, who spearedheaded the Hurricane Sandy relief drive, is leading this collection as well.

The parish and school communities collected clean-up goods such as wheelbarrows, shovels, contractor bags, plastic totes and storage containers.

"When you think of a relief response, there's certainly an immediate need, but the recovery part is the long-term process," Somma said, noting that food and clothing are not being collected because organizers have been told there is nowhere to store it.

She added that the school and parish also collected charcoal and grills, suitcases, camping sets, air mattresses, diapers, tents, first-aid supplies, "and the kind of stuff that people don't think about until it is taken away."

On the same day as the school and parish community packed supplies to assist in the aftermath of the twisters, another tornado struck the Oklahoma City area. The storm, measured as either an EF3 or EF4, was not as strong as previous ones, but brought heavier rain and flooding with it.

"There are families still living under tarps or in worse conditions," Somma said. "The major cities, thank God, receive tremendous, immediate response, but communities like Little Axe that are on the fringe or marginalized really need our help."

She noted that majority of population of Little Axe are Native Americans, members of Absentee Shawnee Tribe.

The Absentee Shawnee Tribe is one of three Shawnee tribes. The tribe gets its name from the fact that its members migrated from the Shawnee reservation in Kansas to settle in what is now Oklahoma.

Somma said she was "amazed" at the generosity of people who are teaching out to help the suffering.

The Maryland Motor Truck Association found a trucker who donated his time and vehicle to haul the supplies to meet up with a convoy in New York that is sending relief items to Oklahoma weekly.

"St. Andrew's kindergarten class collected money over the year - they had about $500, which they wanted to donate, and we purchased lanterns and tents," Somma said.

The students made cards to send to the children of Little Axe.

"All of this teaches them selflessness, that sometimes there are more important things than their own needs," she said. She called the relief effort "faith and character in action."

Father Leary said he is not surprised by the generosity of his parish and school. "That is what the culture is here," he said.

"We have created a culture here of bringing people to Jesus and bringing Jesus to people," he said. "And this is our way of bringing Jesus to the people."