The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s (BGCO) Disaster Relief operation, which has trained more than 5,500 volunteers who have served in the wake of nearly every major disaster in its 40-year history, is still serving Oklahomans as the one-year anniversary of the May 2013 tornadoes nears.
The ministry, which relies on charitable donations to serve victims of disasters and does relief work of a wide variety—including clearing debris off tornado-wrecked residential properties and preparing thousands of meals for disaster victims and volunteers—has played a major role in the Moore and Shawnee-area tornado response and recovery.
“We were humbled to receive donations from thousands of individuals and many businesses, in addition to contributions from Oklahoma Baptists and other Southern Baptists from around the world, who gave to its disaster relief operation since last May,” said Anthony L. Jordan, executive director-treasurer for the BGCO.
According to Jordan, BGCO Disaster Relief received approximately $3.9 million in designated charitable contributions toward the 2013 Oklahoma tornado response, as well as more than $2.5 million in gifts toward its general disaster relief operation.
Since May 2013, the BGCO has made an impact through service and donations in these ways:
- Within days and weeks of the storms, the BGCO partnered with its affiliated local churches, and identified victims of the storms, providing financial assistant to 773 families who had houses damaged or destroyed for a total of approximately $750,000;
- Prepared more than 200,000 meals, which were served to victims and volunteers;
- Cleared the home sites of more than 1,200 of the 4,035 houses that were reported destroyed or damaged by the tornado-affected areas;
- Provided 63 newly refurbished mobile homes for victims of the tornados who lost their mobile-home residence and were uninsured or under-insured;
- Donated $500,000 to Moore Public Schools for the building a 1,600-person shelter on the site of Central Elementary and Central Junior High in Moore;
- Provided financial assistance to 74 first responders, including police, fire, and county deputies in the greater Oklahoma city metro area who lost their homes or had severe damage, many of whom served directly in the May 2013 tornado response; and
- Is installing new in-ground storm shelters at more than 100 strategic locations affected by the tornadoes.
“Since the May tornadoes, the BGCO disaster relief volunteers and churches have served thousands of Oklahomans through our efforts,” said Sam Porter, disaster relief director for the BGCO.
Approximately $3 million already has been spent toward tornado relief. The BGCO is continuing to meet needs as they are identified, said Jordan.
“The BGCO was active, of course, in the immediate response, and we are actively involved in the long-term rebuilding process, as well,” said Porter. “There are major plans in the works to utilize the dollars toward this recovery and rebuilding, and we are committed to making sure every last person who was affected by these storms is served to the best of our ability.”
Jordan emphasized that while dollars are important, the entire well-being of the person is at the core of its vision.
“We recognize the grief and trauma of those affected by the storms is great, and we know each of these people will find true help from the Lord and our volunteers and ministry has that as its chief aim,” he said.
In addition to serving in Oklahoma since May 2013, including mud-out work in Poteau and Weleetka after flooding in those areas, Oklahoma Baptists were activated to serve after Colorado wildfires in June and floods in the Boulder, Colo. area in the fall of 2013. The BGCO also sent $50,000 to the Philippines for disaster relief after Hurricane Haiyan struck that island nation in early November.