Virginia and Richard Luttrell are like a lot of people in the world: on October 29th, 2012, they watched and waited to see what devastation Hurricane Sandy would bring to the East Coast of the United States. As the news reports came in, they were overcome with emotion as they saw the town that they had called home for most of their lives ravaged by the storm.
This is not an uncommon story for people in the Charlotte area. All many of us have to do is to look to our right or to our left in our neighborhood and we will see a family transplanted here from New Jersey or New York.
The Luttrells are one of those families.
Debbie Butler, Principal of St Mark Catholic School in Huntersville, was also watching news coverage of the devastation and understood immediately that she wanted to rally the school community to do something to help. She knew just who to call on to make it happen—Virginia and Richard Luttrell, whose children attend St Mark Catholic School. What happened after that is truly an inspiring story.
As soon as they realized the damage that befell their community and received Mrs. Butler’s request to spearhead the school’s response, the Luttrells began organizing a relief effort. They contacted their former church, Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Middletown, NJ, to find out the best way that they could help and began reaching out to their new church and school community here in Huntersville: Saint Mark Catholic Church and School.
The school community immediately embraced the Luttrells’ call for help and began a fundraising and supply drive. Within one day of announcing the relief effort, more than $3,000 had been raised. Word spread and people from the church also began to contribute. Very soon, the entire lobby of the school was filled with donated supplies.
More than 100 large boxes were filled with toiletries, cleaning supplies, non-perishable foods, coats, blankets, pet supplies and clothing.
“We were so overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we received from everyone,” said Virginia Luttrell. “We never imagined that our request for help would result in so much, so fast.”
As the donations kept coming in, a new problem evolved: how to get the supplies to New Jersey. The answer came in the form of Melissa Donahue, a parent of two Saint Mark students, who was working with Robby Gordon Motorsports on a relief effort of their own.
While Robby Gordon Motorsports was collecting items, they did not have a contact in New Jersey to receive their donations. Likewise, the Saint Mark effort had items and a church in need but did not have a truck large enough to transport the donations.
Robby Gordon Motorsports volunteered the use of their truck and both collection efforts were combined into one.
What started just two weeks ago as a grassroots desire to help, has resulted in thousands of donated dollars; a partnership between Saint Mark Catholic School and Robby Gordon Motorsports; and a tractor trailer filled with supplies that left town on the morning of Wednesday, November 14, 2012 and arrived at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Middletown, New Jersey later that evening. The supplies are slated to be distributed to people in the communities served by St Mary’s Catholic Church, many of whom lost everything in storm and have been staying in shelters or in damaged homes without power for weeks.
But the Luttrells have only just started. Many people are still in need and Christmas is right around the corner. They are now focusing their attention on rallying the school and community one more time for a toy drive that began on November 14, just hours, after the tractor trailer left Charlotte for Middletown, NJ.
Those who would like to help, can drop off new toys and books in the lobby of Saint Mark Catholic School through December 7, 2012. The school is open M-F from 8 am - 3:30 pm and is located at 14750 Stumptown Road in Huntersville, NC.
After spending days sorting through donations, packing boxes and coordinating the delivery of much needed items, Virginia Luttrell was asked to reflect on the experience of seeing so many reach out to help people they don’t even know. Without hesitation, Luttrell simply said, “God is good.”