United in recovery
BY SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Sunday, August 26, 2012
8/26/12 at 7:37 AM
Related Story: SEEN: There was nothing left standing
MANNFORD - Countless acts of kindness and generosity have poured out since devastating wildfires swept through Creek County on Aug. 3, destroying 376 homes and leaving more than 100 Mann- ford and Olive school children homeless.
Individuals, neighbors, businesses, churches and local, tribal, state and federal entities have emptied their pantries, closets and wallets because it was the right thing to do, but also because it made them feel better in response to the human suffering they saw.
Some took in a family or abandoned pet. Others let homeless families stay in their personal travel trailers or provided meals.
Some gave thousands of dollars to the relief effort and challenged others to give more.
There were also plenty of hugs and prayers to go around.
Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief
SBC Disaster Relief teams from Oklahoma and several other states, including Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Arizona and California, had a presence at the wildfire scene almost immediately.
Jim Sheetz, incident commander, said 172 sites have been cleaned so far and crews were expected to stay until at least Saturday.
Teams descend on a burn site, separate metals by hand, sift through debris for salvageable items, remove ash and bricks, take out damaged trees and put everything in neat piles.
"We found a wedding ring," said Jerry McCrary of SBC Missouri, which made a homeless woman very happy. "Working with people is the best part."
Headquartered at First Baptist Church in Mannford, dozens of SBC volunteers spent long days at burn sites and returned with dirty but smiling faces.
The Southern Baptist teams haven't been alone. Christian Disaster Relief of Mound-ridge, Kan., a Mennonite disaster relief group, and Samaritan's Purse of Boone, N.C., whose president is Franklin Graham, have been working with them.
On Friday, an SBC disaster team from Arizona cleaned the home site of Joe Anaya on West 61st Street (Pleasantville Road).
"This was like an incineration fire," said Gary Eubanks, who transported many of the excavators, saws and other equipment that rental companies have loaned out for the effort.
Anaya said he feels better now that the cleanup has started. He also lost a home-based business, A&J Lawn Services.
"For us, it's like a death in the family, so it's like a funeral. Now we can start the rebirth process," he said. "I'm so thankful. This has given us a very big head start at rebuilding our lives."
Norma Turner of SBC in Arizona, dug an ashtray from the ashes that Anaya's son, Jorge, made for him when he was in the second grade. She gave it to Anaya, which brought him to tears.
Anaya said that Jorge is now 15 and plays on the Mannford varsity football team and also works with him in his lawn business.
Joe Anaya lived in the home with his wife Lilian and two other children, daughters Kenia and Angelina.
"I'd lose everything in the world, as long as I keep my family," he said. "We put our heart and soul into this house, but the good thing is we still have our heart and soul. This was just the building that housed it."
Some 85 percent of those who lost homes were not insured. Joe Anaya wasn't one of them, but many of his neighbors were.
Anaya worries that his neighbors won't be able to rebuild.
"We came out Sunday and a lot of our neighbors were living in tents, just wandering around," he said.
In response, Anaya helped organize the Rumble for Relief Event Saturday in which hundreds of motorcycle riders rode through the disaster relief site and donated money to the wildfire relief effort. Several dealerships and businesses hosted the event.
Anaya said it helped him deal with everything he has lost.
"I don't want my neighbors to leave. I want them all to rebuild and come back stronger," he said.
Muscogee (Creek) Nation
When the fires destroyed hundreds of homes and left dozens of schoolchildren homeless less than a week before the first day of school, the Creek Nation stepped in quickly to make sure that no child was without school supplies or a backpack, Mannford Superintendent Steve Waldvogel said.
Donations were so plentiful, they were able to share with the Olive and Drumright school districts.
Town Administrator Mike Nunneley said that the tribe immediately wanted to know what they could do.
The firefighters needed a generator? Done.
"It was just that quick," Nunneley said.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Town of Mannford
The Corps has allowed fire victims to stay at its campsites at Salt Creek and Brush Creek, where there is access to electricity and running water, along with restroom and shower facilities. Some families are living in tents, and others are housed in campers and recreational vehicles that have been loaned to them.
Others are at the town's New Mannford Ramp.
American Red Cross/Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation
The Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation announced a $100,000 matching grant to double donations to the American Red Cross. The foundation will match donations dollar for dollar to aid in the relief of the wildfires in Creek and Payne counties as the agency continues to assist families that were left homeless.
"We recognize the great needs of these Oklahoma families in the face of the crippling losses, and we want to help," said Elizabeth Frame Ellison, executive director of the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation. "We want to help these families rebuild their lives in Oklahoma, and we hope that this matching grant will inspire other foundations, businesses and individuals to step forward, as well."
The employees of Appliance Solutions in Tulsa used their quarterly incentive pay to adopt two single mothers and their children who lost their homes in the wildfires.
They delivered a new washer and dryer on Wednesday to Karen Bradford, who is staying in a temporary residence at Cimarron Mobile Home Park in Mannford.
"She lost everything to the point to where she had to rent a trailer close enough to walk to work," Appliance Solutions owner Dave Bauer said.
Bauer said that the idea actually came from one of their appliance installers. Bauer presented the idea to his 20 employees, and they responded 100 percent in favor of doing it.
"The staff said this is kind of a legacy for us in our own kind of way. They were excited about it," Bauer said.
After they committed to helping Bradford, they got word of another single woman with 12 children who lost her home.
"How do you say no to that?" Bauer said.
Employees loaded a box truck with furniture, cookware and other supplies.
Rickey Saliba, owner of Freddie's Steakhouse and Lakeside Cabins, put up two homeless families in cabins.
Chaplin Franklin Kiker of Guardian of Freedom helped connect six families in need with owners of recreational vehicles.
Jennifer Lambert of Sand Springs is loaning her old '76 model, 30-foot recreational vehicle to a single mom and her two home-schooled boys.
"It's not the prettiest thing, but it's a roof over someone's head," she said. "I have three children of my own and if something happened to my home, I hope someone would do what I'm doing."
Susan Hylton 918-581-8381
Disaster relief chaplain Norma Turner (left) and homeowner Joe Anaya, whose house was destroyed in the wildfire, hug after Turner gave Anaya an ashtray made by his now 15-year-old son when he was 5 years old. Other than the fact that the family survived, Anaya said the ashtray is the most important thing that remained from the wildfire. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Danny Cotner, of the Rogers Baptist Church chainsaw team from Claremore, saws a tree as volunteers remove debris, near Mannford, on Friday. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Volunteers gather in prayer outside the First Baptist Church before driving to wildfire damaged houses in Mannford on Friday. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Charles Daub at his temporary residence at a campsite in Brush Creek near the Keystone Dam on Wednesday. His home was destroyed by the recent wildfires. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World
Wildfire victim Karen Bradford does a load of of laundry in her new washer and dryer donated by Appliance Solutions employees in her new mobile home in Cimarron Mobile Home Park in Mannford on Wednesday. Bradford's home was destroyed in the recent wildfires in the Mannford area. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World
Rickey Saliba, owner of Freddie's Steakhouse, in Mannford. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World