Since tornadoes struck in central Oklahoma in May, national attention has inevitably faded. Life goes on.
But for many victims, life will never be completely the same. Various hardships remain. Lost items have to be replaced. Paperwork has to be done. Physical and emotional wounds have to heal. Debris removal work continues. Living arrangements have to be made.
Bob Moore, a deacon at the First Baptist Church of Little Axe, located east of Norman and Lake Thunderbird, said the main long-term need he sees will be rebuilding homes. A number of residents in his area didn’t have homeowner’s insurance. Some are still living in tents, Moore said.
Church members suffered a range of home damage from minor to severe, he said. Victims need help with restoring outbuildings and fences. Security has also been an issue. Looters have stolen piles of items before victims could get back to them, Moore said.
Moore said part of his ministering to victims has simply been listening to their stories.
“It’s a lot of heartbreak, a lot of sadness,” he said.
On the upside, volunteers have come from across the state and the country and around the world, Moore said. Their hometowns include Joplin.
“It’s been amazing, the amount of help from out of the state, out of the country,” Moore said.
First Presbyterian Church of Edmond Associate Pastor Matt Jones has been coordinating relief efforts with Moore’s church. This week, First Presbyterian hosted a team of volunteers from the First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs. A team from Statesville, N.C., will arrive in Edmond on Sunday and depart July 5, Jones said. The volunteers are spending their nights in Edmond and days helping storm victims across the metro area.
Jones said God’s compassion in the hearts of believers compels them to aid victims. Jones said his church has made a long-term commitment to help the Little Axe area.
“I’ve been in awe of how our communities pull together and help each other,” Jones said.
During the month following the first tornado, the Red Cross opened more than 4,600 cases and provided services to more than 5,000 families through the Multi-Agency Resource Centers, said American Red Cross regional spokesman Ken Garcia.
The Red Cross plans to allocate another $3-$5 million to provide assistance for families who, working with caseworkers, will receive help with unmet emergency needs and recovery planning, Garcia said. This could include assistance with transportation needs, home repairs, security deposits for new housing, storage of belongings and other needs, he said.
During the weeks following the storms, the Oklahoma Baptist disaster relief center received more than 1,100 requests for help from families needing assistance. As of June 17, the organization has fulfilled 1,035 of those jobs and was working diligently to see that the remaining needs are met.
Sam Porter, Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma Disaster Relief state director, said long-term recovery need is being addressed by several collaborating nonprofit and faith-based organizations.
Oklahoma Baptists and United Methodist Churches support a group called Volunteer Agencies Active in Disaster. Porter said after the May 3, 1999, tornadoes, the group rebuilt 33 homes for victims who had no insurance and could not afford a Habitat for Humanity home.
“They went through extensive case management to be qualified,” Porter said. “We will do the same type of program this time as well.”
On Wednesday, the Oklahoma Insurance Department announced that the number of insurance claims from the May tornadoes were at 75,758, with insurance payments reaching $687 million
“The victims of these devastating tornadoes will be dealing with the aftermath for quite a while,” said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. “The claim filings are slowing down but they’re nowhere near complete.”
Federal government sources also have allocated monies to aid Oklahoma victims.
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