Destroyed homes overshadow start of school for Oklahoma town
BY SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
8/14/12 at 7:09 AM
Continuing coverage: Read more about the state wildfires here.
MANNFORD - Mannford Public Schools held its annual meeting to welcome back teachers on Monday morning, but it was the triumph and tragedy of last week's wildfires that took center stage.
Superintendent Steve Waldvogel recognized five staff members - a teacher, a bus driver, a cook, a teacher's aide and an office aide - whose homes were destroyed.
An estimated 72 students also lost their homes in the Creek County fire, which burned more than 58,500 acres. State officials reported Monday that 376 Creek County homes were destroyed and that 85 percent of the homes that were damaged or destroyed statewide likely were not insured.
Most of the school staff members whose homes were destroyed are staying with family members.
A friend is letting Stacy Braswell, who has been a teacher's assistant for Mannford Elementary School for 20 years, stay in one of his lakeside cabins.
"Miss Stacy," as she is called, was all smiles on Monday as she helped teachers prepare for the first day of school on Thursday.
"I can't feel sorry for myself because there are so many people who lost their homes," Braswell said. "God has lessons for me. I can't think that this is any different."
Countless people have asked her what she needs, but even if she received household goods as donations, she wouldn't have any place to keep them right now, she said. Everything she owns is in her car.
What she needs now are "hugs, smiles, prayers, and keep it coming," she said.
Braswell's daughter and son-in-law, Tia and Max Corbin, also lost their home in the wildfire. They had lived there only three days and lost everything, she said.
Also in Mannford, Diane Hamilton had just bought school supplies for her granddaughter Josie Hamilton, who is about to begin kindergarten, but they lost everything when the house she was leasing on Speck Wright Road was consumed by flames on Aug 3.
They fled around 11 p.m. with flames whipping over the top of their car and smoke so thick they could barely see.
"She lost her little dog, and that upset her," Hamilton said of her granddaughter. "She's handling it real good, considering."
Hamilton and her granddaughter are staying in a recreational vehicle that a friend loaned them.
The concern is whether all of the students, due to their living arrangements, will be able to make it back to school, Waldvogel said Monday. Each Mannford school principal has made efforts to contact each affected family personally to let them know they don't need to worry about school supplies.
"They're going to have enough turmoil and anxiety, but for school it's covered," Waldvogel said.
Thanks to donations from the Creek Nation, businesses and countless individuals, the district has plenty of school supplies and backpacks that were donated for homeless students, who will also qualify for federally funded free breakfasts and lunches the entire school year, he said.
Donations were so generous that Mannford was able to give some of the school supplies to Drumright and Olive schools.
"We appreciate all the donations," Waldvogel said, adding that cash is the best way to help now, because needs will be varied as the school year progresses.
How to help
American Red Cross: Accepting financial donations only: Online: tulsaworld.com/okredcross. Text: REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Checks: Mail to American Red Cross, Dept. 995, Tulsa, OK 74182. Phone: Those needing assistance may call 918-831-1100
Salvation Army: Online: tulsaworld.com/disastersalvationarmy The donation will be used in the wildfire disaster. Checks: Mail to The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 397, Tulsa, OK 74101, or bring to the office at 924 S. Hudson, Tulsa, OK 74112 and note "OK Disaster" on the check.
Tulsa SPCA: The Tulsa Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is collecting animal-relief supplies for the fire victims in Creek County. Needed items include pet crates, pet food, blankets, towels and food bowls. Monetary donations can be dropped off at the Mobile Adoption Center in the parking lot of Drysdale's, 3220 S. Memorial Road in Tulsa, or mailed to 2910 Mohawk Blvd., Tulsa, OK 74110.
Mattresses: Mattress Firm stores are working with Sealy, Simmons, Tempurpedic and Corsicana in donating mattresses to Creek County families who lost their homes. To request a voucher, families should visit the Cushing Senior Center or the First United Methodist Church in Mannford. The company's Tulsa-area locations will also be accepting new and gently used bedding and sheets. To donate, visit one of the locations or call 918-461-9510 for more details.
The stores will deliver items to families who need them.
- 5215 E. 41st St.
- 101st Street and Memorial Drive
- 9404 E. 71st St.
- 1337 E. 71st St.
- 1342 Hillside Drive, Broken Arrow
- 9045 N. 121st East Ave., Owasso
- 101 N. Wilson Ave., Sand Springs.
Matching grant for The Salvation Army
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma will donate up to $15,000 in a matching grant to assist wildfire victims. The company will donate the money to The Salvation Army disaster fund.
"We greatly appreciate the generosity of Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and hope that the public really supports this matching grant," said Major Jim Taylor, Salvation Army Tulsa Area Commander. "We've talked to some of the wildfire victims, and their stories are heartbreaking. Please help them by donating."
Since the wildfire outbreak, The Salvation Army has provided more than 2,500 meals, 4,534 drinks and 2,600 snacks.
Original Print Headline: Loss overshadows return to school
Susan Hylton 918-581-8381
Mannford Lower Elementary School teacher's aide Stacy Braswell (right), whose home was destroyed in the Creek County wildfires, hugs first-grade teacher Jamie Kleven in the aide's office on Monday as they make preparations for school to start later this week. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Diane Hamilton (right) and her granddaughter Josie Hamilton, 5, are shown at the door to the camper that a friend provided for them. Their previous home was destroyed by a wildfire. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World