VOL. 128 | NO. 113 | Tuesday, June 11, 2013
By Andy Meek
The Westin Memphis Beale Street Hotel is hosting a bash this week organizers are calling “Memphis to Moore,” an event that will raise money for the rebuilding effort in an Oklahoma community devastated last month by a mile-wide tornado.
Memphians are stepping up to help the residents of Moore, Okla., where a devastating tornado struck last month. Hannah Montoya, left, and her aunt, Pam Head, walk past a makeshift memorial in Moore.
(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
The tornado struck Moore, Okla., May 20, with winds at one point estimated above 200 miles per hour. It killed about two dozen people and injured scores of others, in addition to causing extensive property damage.
The event in Memphis will be held Friday, June 14, starting at 7 p.m. and will raise money for the Moore Public Schools Tornado Relief Fund. Backers of the event include Memphian and Moore native Angela Copeland and RedRover Sales & Marketing.
The Westin also has donated its ballroom for the event, and guests there will enjoy free valet parking in addition to free food and cocktails from Bleu Restaurant & Lounge.
The festivities will include live entertainment, T-shirts and a variety of silent auction items. Guests can have their pictures taken in the Amurica photo booth, and they’ll also be able to send messages of encouragement back to Moore.
Tickets for the event are $50 in advance, available at MemphisToMoore.org, and they’re $60 at the door.
Money raised is intended to help students, families and staff of Moore Public Schools, the third-largest district in Oklahoma. Copeland said a significant amount of property the school district owns was damaged, so they have a big need of funds for rebuilding efforts.
“It’s going to pay for food, clothing, after-school care and school supplies,” Copeland said. “I actually grew up in Moore. I attended Moore Public Schools from kindergarten all the way up through 12th grade and graduated from Moore High School. I had an amazing experience there. I think here in Memphis when the tornado hit, people were really struck by the heroism people were showing in Moore. We saw many cases on TV of teachers laying their bodies across students to try to protect them. I wasn’t surprised, because those are the same kinds of teachers I had in Moore.”
To put the event together, she reached out to her network of friends with the idea and asked for support. That group included RedRover CEO and founder Lori Turner-Wilson, who has a connection of her own to the area.
“I have grandparents that were in Norman, right in that area, so I used to spend a lot time in that area as a kid,” Turner-Wilson said. “So it hit home to me, all that devastation.
“I knew the right partner to bring to the table was Patrick (Jordan) at the Westin, because there’s nobody I know of who’d be more interested in giving back to the community in this way.”
Jordan is the general manager of the Westin. He still remembers how he felt when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, when he was working at another hotel in Memphis, and how families fled to that hotel because they had something the Moore residents did not have much of – a warning.
“I remember seeing these people really running for their lives, no idea what they’d be going back to, if there would even be anything to go back to,” Jordan said. “But the people in Moore didn’t even have any notice. With tornados, the sirens go off and that’s pretty much it. It’s there. When stuff like this happens you think, ‘I wish I could do something.’ I was fortunate to have Lori reach out to me and tell me what they were working on, and it was a natural fit.”