Oklahoma Disaster Response Group Needs Volunteers
NORMAN, Oklahoma - A disaster response group here at home knows the work that's ahead for areas hit hard by Hurricane Harvey. The Oklahoma United Methodist Disaster Response helps victims recover long after the disaster strikes.
“A lot of rain went through here,” remembered Ladona Rushing.
Rushing lives in rural southeast Norman. Her home was flooded during the May 2015 storms.
“It was flooded clear up to the back of the house,” she said.
The heavy rain forced her roof to buckle and cave in.
“I've replaced the roof myself with my retirement,” Rushing said.
However, her money ran out and she couldn’t finish the repairs on the inside. A tarp hangs above her, serving as part of her ceiling while black mold grows underneath. Her floor is still stripped down to the plywood.
“They have to live with this and if you can imagine yourself having to live in a situation where you couldn't repair your home, they lapse into hopelessness,” said Hal Wright, a project manager with the Oklahoma United Methodist Disaster Response.
Wright works with volunteers to help storm victims like Rushing.
“That's the one thing that we can provide for them is hope,” Wright said. “We can come in and give them a hand up and help them in the recovery.”
The ministry uses grant money to bring in teams of volunteers to repair homes damaged by disaster. Right now, the focus is on the storms of 2015 when 111 tornadoes and over 50 inches of rain hit Oklahoma.
Chad Detwiler is a volunteer coordinator with the ministry and says while the initial response to a disaster is great, he struggles to find volunteers to stick around for the recovery phase, which can take years to complete.
“That's when the greatest impact comes from volunteers, is staying for the long haul and being able to get the families in a house, safe, secure and functional,” said Detwiler.
Detwiler admits a hurricane like Harvey can impact far more people and take longer for them to recover.
“When you look at the impact that a hurricane has there is no comparison in magnitude but what we would like people to be aware of is there is no quick recovery,” he said. “In an area that's impacted by a hurricane, it will be 5 to 10 years if not longer on a deal like that.”
As volunteer groups deploy to help our neighbors in Texas, Detwiler remains steadfast in his efforts here at home. In fact, he said he needs more volunteers to step up and help 233 Oklahoma families still suffering.
“You don't have to be of any particular volunteer skill, we'll teach what needs to be done on that particular project and see it all the way through,” he said.
Right now, 60 homes are funded and ready for repair, including Rushing’s home.
“I really appreciate it because there's no way I can do it,” Rushing said. “I want to get it done and start living like a normal person.”
Volunteers are scheduled to come out and repair Rushing’s home in October. If you would like to help out and volunteer, click here: http://oklahomaunitedmethodistchurchdisasterresponse.org/