Agencies Say Assistance Is Still Available For Storm Victims

Friday, April 4th 2014, 5:48 pm
By: News 9

Next month will mark the one-year anniversary of three devastating days of severe weather in Oklahoma.

As that milestone approaches, local non-profit agencies are trying to make sure that donations meant to help those impacted by last May's storms are utilized.

More than 6,000 Oklahomans received immediate relief services, but far fewer have taken advantage of the availability of funds and services for long-term relief.

People like Rosanna Smith have experienced firsthand the difference such relief can make.

"I remember being in the closet and praying," said Smith, holding her dog, Zoey.

On May 20, 2013, with reports of a massive tornado fast approaching, Smith took cover in the closet under her stairs.

"At first, I was consoling my dog," recalled Smith. "'Hang on, Zoey, hang on! It'll be over in a minute.'"

When it was over, Smith said her house had been leveled, and she was right in the middle of it.

"I was afraid to move," said Smith, "because I didn't know what was on top of me, because I had a two-story home."

Less than a year later, thanks to the good work of several non-profit agencies, Smith has a new home, new furniture and a new lease on life.

"You really find out through a tragedy who genuinely cares," Smith stated.

Smith is one of approximately 1,100 storm victims who has benefited from the genuine care of the Oklahoma Disaster Relief Project.

"The Oklahoma Disaster Recovery Project is working," Central Oklahoma Red Cross CEO Janienne Bella said.

Bella said ODRP is unlike any relief effort she's seen, with six non-profits officing and working side by side to provide long-term relief to those impacted by the May 19, 20 and 31 storms.

"I am so impressed by the agencies and how they all have just risen to the occasion and said, 'Whatever it takes, we're gonna make this work'."

The partner agencies -- American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul, Oklahoma United Methodist Church, and Church of the Harvest -- provide everything from case management, to project assessment, to construction management. All services are donated.

"It's an extraordinary thing that's happening in our state that honestly most people don't know about," Church of the Harvest pastor Kirk Pankratz said.

The possibility that some tornado victims don't know about ODRP and what it offers is why representatives asked Moore legislator Mark McBride to send a letter to his constituents.

"They wanted to make sure everybody in the tornado area was aware of what was available," Representative McBride said.

McBride said he's already heard from people who want to know more about the program.

Rosanna Smith encourages those who haven't sought help to do so. She said it's meant the world to her.

"I was unsure what to expect," said Smith. "I sure didn't expect what I got -- God's very faithful, and I'm very grateful."

ODRP officials said there are currently about 1,100 cases still open, and they hope that number will soon go up.

Those interested in learning more can call ODRP's toll-free number: 1-866-477-7276.