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story.lead_photo.caption A group of six California women created the California Women's Business Council in the aftermath of the May 22 tornado to help their neighbors. (Courtesy of Brandy Brockes)

The May 22 tornado destroyed a lot. It also created an idea for something good.

Much of the story after the May 22 tornado was about neighbors helping neighbors — and several residents of California were looking for a way to help.

So they created the California Women's Business Council and kicked off the new group's first project: Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a fundraiser for Mid-Missouri tornado victims.

"All of us kind of woke up that Thursday morning and thought, 'If we would have been impacted, how can we as a neighbor community give back?'" Brandy Brockes, owner of Studio B Salon and Brockes Tire & Auto in California, told the Jefferson City News Tribune in May.

"We formed it just basically to do this fundraiser. Now we've started an organization," she said last week.

The idea became bigger than what they started with.

Brockes — along with founding council members Stephanie Stokes, Julie Bolinger, Chelsea McGill, Kayle Kiesling and Jenny Cain — have since been joined by new members and have continued meeting monthly.

Their fundraiser, which sold raffle tickets for a variety of prizes donated by area businesses, also outgrew its original scope.

Initially hoping to sell 400 tickets and raise $8,000, the California Women's Business Council instead sold about 1,000 tickets and raised $20,000.

"I feel like when you get six strong-willed women together, things just get done," Brockes said.

They split the proceeds between the Eldon Ministerial Alliance and Jefferson City resident Nathan Hays, who was doing fundraising of his own in a friendly social media contest with fellow Jefferson City resident Annie Schulte. Hays' fundraiser ended up with more than $17,000 including the California Women's Business Council contribution, which went to provide supplies for volunteers in the cleanup effort, transportation for tornado victims to access resources, and other charitable gifts and efforts to fill gaps in available resources.

"Chelsea, on the day of our event, made a point to say that even though California is little, together we can be mighty," Brockes said. "Our community came together to help our neighbors, and we were just glad that we could help in any way we could."

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