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To Darryn Cook, Amanda Moore and her daughter Christy Reynolds and Tony Rippley and his wife, Nikki, such an offer was too good to even be dreamed of.

But, their dreams became a reality the last week of August when mobile homes fitting that description were set in place on their lots in Cleveland and Pottawatomie counties—three months after tornadoes and severe storms raged across central Oklahoma in late May.

Those three mobile homes are only the first of almost 20 purchased in a program by Oklahoma Southern Baptists, and furnished in partnership with Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City.

New Sears Kenmore appliances—refrigerator, range, dishwasher and washer and dryer—are being installed in each home, paid for by donations to Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief.

The long-term goal is to eventually buy up to 50 mobile homes, said Sam Porter, disaster relief director for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO). 

Recipients of the homes—all victims of recent tornadoes storms, or other disasters—have been identified in Little Axe (2), Newalla (6), Noble (2), Shawnee (4), and one each in Edmond, Norman, McLoud and Slaughterville.

The initial 16 mobile homes were purchased from Stallion Oilfield Services, based in Houston, Texas.

Cook, who has lived in the Steelman Estates Addition in Bethel Acres near Shawnee for 22 years, was the first recipient. He lives on one of three lots purchased by his mother and handed down to him and his two brothers after she passed away.

Cook said after he watched the May 19 tornado pass over Lake Thunderbird and Little Axe on television, he and some others decided it was time to head to a storm shelter.

“Normally, we wouldn’t have gone to the storm cellar, but a higher power told us, ‘OK you’d better go to the storm cellar,’” he recalled.

“So, we ran to the storm cellar. It seemed like five or six minutes we were inside there, and when we thrust the lid back to come out, there wasn’t hardly anything left in sight.

“Actually, the trailer next to mine just had the roof messed up a little bit and a couple of windows knocked out. But, the one directly behind that landed in my yard. And, there was a double-wide next to it that landed in my garden and killed all of my vegetables.”

But, Cook said he knew he would have been fine, no matter what happened to him that day.

“If I hadn’t survived, it would have been my time to go, and the good Lord would have called me home,” he testified. “I accepted the Lord a long time ago. Me and the Good Lord talk every day. Even though I went to that cellar, if it had been time for me to go He would have found a way to pull me out, and I would have been fine with that, because I know where I would go.”

 He and his 13-year-old daughter, Emily, have remained at their home location for the past three months, living under rugged conditions.

“We lived in a tent for the first 30 days and then the Lord provided a fifth wheel (trailer) after that from my brother for the next 30-45 days, and when this trailer came in, I moved right in!” he exclaimed

His new home, which was to receive the new furnishings  sometime between Aug. 29-31 is a huge blessing, he said.

“This means the world to me,” he shared. “I’ll tell you what I tell all of the volunteers over here, and I am a firm believer in it. They’re all angels sent from Heaven. We just can’t see their wings.”

Porter said the synergy found in the combination of services through the BGCO and Catholic Charities is a perfect example of how Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) work together.

“We (The BGCO) were perfectly willing to do everything, but the strength of VOAD is we come together with our strengths,” he said. “So through our relationship with our VOAD partners, I contacted Catholic Charities and asked about furniture. They said they have what’s called a “House In a Box,” which contains virtually everything you need to equip a home.

“So, this is a collaborative effort. All accessories are included—the basic necessities to set up a home, including bed linens and pillows.

“That’s the benefit of people donating money directly during a disaster, instead of donating used furniture or going out and buying stuff themselves. There always are  truckloads of goods—diapers, shoes, formula, bottled water  and so on that overwhelms the system. It rarely gets to the disaster victims and usually goes to other benevolent charities after the crisis is over. That’s OK, but if donors want their gift to go directly to the disaster victims, the best thing they can do is give cash, and we can buy things as they are needed at a very discounted rate.”

In Slaughterville, Christy Reynolds and two of her sons, 12-year-old Dylan and 7-year-old Kyler, gathered in what will become the home school room of their new mobile home. Christy’s mother, Amanda Moore, owns the property on which their former home stood, until the roof was destroyed by a hailstorm and collapsed into the structure.

In their third year of home schooling, Reynolds is delighted with the new room in which she’ll work with Kyler, a 2nd grader, and Dylan, a 7th grader.

“It’s amazing, really amazing, and totally unexpected,” she said. “We’ve been on this property for 32 years and never had so  much kindness. The people who are involved are amazing. 

“It shows a lot to my boys, too. I try and teach my boys these things, and they’re learning a lot from this. There are some good people out there.”

Reynolds, her mother and her three sons, including a 17-year-old, have lived in two storage buildings her mother bought since the roof on their house collapsed almost three months ago.

They never asked anyone for help, including members of Noble, Twelve Corners, where they are members.

“I never had a lot growing up, we just learned how to get by with what we had and make the best of it,” Reynolds confessed. “But, we’re very grateful.”

Meanwhile, not too far away, bivocational Church of Christ pastor Tony Ripley and his wife, Nikki, had been living in a house that was damaged in a tornado in 2010 after their home was destroyed in a wildfire last year.

BGCO chaplaincy specialist Paul Bettis pointed out their situation to Porter, who recognized the urgency of getting the Ripleys into suitable housing. Thus, they were among the first three to get a re-furbished mobile home.

Porter said “this shows that we are not just helping Southern Baptists. God is allowing us, through the amazing generosity of people from around the world who have donated to tornado relief, to minister across denominational lines and basically to anyone who needs help.”

This ministry, still in the early stages, will be picking up the pace in the next few weeks, however. Early volunteers have come from Campers on Mission, Baptist Builders from Union Association and others from Mullins Association and the Oklahoma City metro area.

“But, we will need many more volunteers, especially those who have plumbing and electrical skills, to help us,” Porter stressed. “If interested, we need them to call and let us know what days they would be available.

“That includes just willing workers who can follow directions. It’s not extremely hard work, we’re just re-furbishing these mobile homes and getting them back into good condition. We also need men and women who would be willing to clean them and make the inside shine. Volunteers are needed nearly every day.”

 

Urgently needed are:

• Electricians and Plumbers

• Individuals experienced in dirt work with skid steer and/or tractor-box blade to construct a level pad to set the mobile home.

Also needed are individuals who can:

• repair holes in walls and paint.

• lay laminate flooring.

• detail/clean the home and make shiny like new.

• install skirting around the trailer.

• build steps and two decks on each home.

To volunteer on the following teams call:

• Repair team, electrician or plumber, Dave Karr 405/420-6460.

• Cleaning Team, Doris Perryman 405/210-8351.

• Dirt work/skid steer-tractor box blade, Sam Porter,  405/942-3000, ext. 4337.

• Moving furniture and appliances, Bill White, 405/973-8641.

Bob Nigh

Author: Bob Nigh

View more articles by Bob Nigh.

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