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story.lead_photo.caption <p>Rebecca Martin/News Tribune</p><p style="text-align:right;">Cassie Pruitt, left, and Annie Pruitt smile outside their home near Holts Summit. The sisters helped at the distribution center at Capital West Christian Church following the tornado.</p>

Cassie and Annie Pruitt have gotten an education in community service this summer.

The sisters, ages 16 and 14, volunteered immediately when the United Way of Central Missouri opened a disaster recovery distribution center at their church, Capital West Christian Church, following the May 22 tornado.

"Our church was so willing to do it," Cassie said. "Personally, I love spending time around other people that like to help."

So they helped — from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. every day.

The Pruitts picked up the task of inventorying the pallets and piles of donated items that flooded the distribution center. They got a feel for what people's true material needs were in the storm's immediate aftermath, as well as what people were prepared to donate.

"We kept needing more and more food," Cassie said. "We got a lot of bedding, sheets, blankets, stuff like that."

Annie added: "A lot of people brought in, like, a whole starting kit for a house — the bedding, the household items and stuff."

While people first needed food and personal care items like soap and deodorant, Cassie said, many later returned for items to start rebuilding their lives.

"We were getting a lot more of bedding and household items, and that's more of what we needed down the road than right at the moment because some people didn't have anywhere to stay or they were staying with a friend," Cassie said. "I know we'd have people come in just for food, and then they'd come back for dishes and stuff like that."

The experience also taught them something about their community.

"The group that were doing this said that they had never seen a community like this — because all the (monetary) donations were pretty much individuals in the community," Annie said.

Clearly, the Pruitts are comfortable in a volunteer environment. Cassie and Annie, who are homeschooled, spent last summer working in a soup kitchen, and their involvement at Capital West Christian Church has them working with the Cole County Mobile Food Pantry and The Pantry regularly.

"Our parents raised us really well," Cassie said. "Our parents are really serving people, and I think all our siblings are really serving people."

Cassie, who is starting her senior year in high school, hopes to pursue a career in law enforcement. Annie, starting her freshman year, wants to become a mechanic, a job that runs in the family.

Other "Heroes of the Storm"

There were nearly 20 individuals and organizations who received plaques Saturday, Aug. 27, 2019, at a ceremony recognizing them as "Heroes of the Storm" for their actions during the May 22 tornado. Read their stories: 

Laurel Dunwoody, with Love2Nourish,

Steve Barnes, Alan Braun, Gary Braun and Justin Braun, with the Cole County Fire Protection District,

Kevin Riley and family, with Riley Auto Group,

The Salvation Army,

Lorenzo Davis Jr., with Building Community Bridges,

Thorpe Gordon Elementary School teachers,

Derese Herndon,

Zach Paul, with KRCG 13,

Cassie Huckabay,

Melissa Lee,

California Women's Business Council,

Cassie Pruitt, Annie Pruitt,

Doug Schrimpf, with Doug Schrimpf Construction,

Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Larry Linthacum, with Jefferson City Public Schools, and

Andrea and Mitch Koetting.

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