Thieves Steal Equipment From Texas Group Helping Tornado Cleanup

Thursday, August 15th 2013, 8:11 pm
By: News 9

Volunteers from a Texas church are in Oklahoma this week helping tornado victims, but on their last day of cleanup they discovered they're the ones who need the help.

Months after the May tornado, there's still work to be done in Newalla.

"We're amazed with the damage. We're really taken aback by how much has happened here," said Steve Godby, missions' coordinator for Grace Fellowship United Methodist Church.

Volunteers from Grace Fellowship and St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Katy, Texas spent the week clearing trees and debris in what Newalla residents say is an overlooked area.

"We were kind of forgotten, and it's like what about us?" said Donna Kolander-Winkler, a Newalla resident since 2000. "You know, do you not know we're here? Do you not know we got hit?"

The Texas group of volunteers is staying at the Asbury United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City. It's where they parked their trailer full of tools each night.

"We thought that was a safe place to put it," Godby said. "We locked up our trailer and we put it in the church parking lot and it was missing the next morning."

Thieves stole their chainsaws, generator, air compressor, power tools, work boots and ladders.

"We do have fewer tools, so we can't do exactly what we had come to do initially," said Rev. Nathan Bledsoe, pastor of discipleship at St. Peter's. "We prayed for whoever felt compelled to steal this, hope they know that god loves them and we do to."

Only instead of getting upset, the group got back to work. They borrowed and bought some new tools and cleaned one hospitalized man's yard.

"We can't take care of this like with the chainsaw and stuff and he sure can't. So it's really a blessing to him," Kolander-Winkler said.

Godby says all his personal tools from his garage at home were inside the stolen trailer, along with a Schwinn unicycle he that he had since he was a child.

"It leaves a little mark for us and was upsetting, but in our hearts, we know we're here to help, and what's happened to us pales in comparison to what people have lost here," said Godby. "Our tools were taken, but our joy for coming out here and helping these folks will never be taken."

The church group plans to head back to the Houston area Friday morning. They did fill out a police report. So far, officers haven't found any suspects in the case. If you have any information, call police.