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Oklahoma tornadoes: Faith groups cooperate with one another to help tornado victims

Faith groups are reaching out to tornado victims throughout Oklahoma to provide immediate assistance as well as long-term aid.
by Carla Hinton Published: June 2, 2013

Faith groups have spread out in force to help Oklahomans attempting to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of deadly tornadoes around the state.

Nowhere is that disaster relief effort more visible than the Oklahoma City metro area.

For years, Oklahomans have joked that there is a house of worship on every corner in communities across Oklahoma. In recent days, it appears that storm victims have found faith groups on every corner in places like Moore — ready to serve.

Leaders of disaster response teams and efforts from various Christian denominations have said the ecumenical cooperation has been inspirational.

“All the churches, it doesn't matter what denomination they are, they are in it,” Sam Porter, director of Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief, said. “That's good to see. It's just super good.”

Patrick Raglow, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, said his agency is pleased to join forces with other organizations to see that storm victims receive much-needed aid.

“We love Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. We love the Red Cross. We love the Salvation Army,” Raglow said. “Catholic Charities is a partner with so many.”

Neils Ludlow, a disaster relief coordinator for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shared similar sentiments.

He said volunteers from his faith community, as well as those from other Christian faith organizations, are providing aid to show tornado victims the love of Christ through their actions.

“People need help and most people in this situation don't have the funds to do it. Many are so distressed, they don't know what to do,” Ludlow said.

“When we show up or another organization shows up, it gives them a breath of fresh air — it gives them hope.”

Working together

Porter said cooperative efforts began almost immediately following the tornadoes that ravaged areas including Edmond, Shawnee, Carney and Bethel Acres on May 19. He said Oklahoma Baptist University and St. Gregory's University, a Roman Catholic institution, joined forces with Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief to house volunteers in the schools' dormitories.

Porter said the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helped pay for some of the food that Baptists prepared at their feeding unit set up in the parking lot of First Baptist Church of Moore. The Baptists prepare meals that are distributed by the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross.

Joint projects between groups of different faiths also are underway.

Edie Roodman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City, said the Jewish Federations of North America has joined with Catholic Charities to manage a distribution site for supplies in Norman.

“The focus now is on helping the victims of the tornado begin to rebuild their lives immediately, through the distribution of gift cards to purchase necessities, clean up efforts of both neighborhoods and public spaces and coordinating volunteers with several different entities,” she said.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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