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Volunteers help Bethel Acres couple recover from Oklahoma tornado loss

by Jane Glenn Cannon Published: October 28, 2013

BETHEL ACRES — For the time being, Joel and Bettie Spears are living in a 26-foot camper trailer, situated just downhill from where a new, 1,300-square-foot home is being built on their Bethel Acres property.

Every day, they can join — or just watch — as volunteers from Crossings Community Church and Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity pour concrete or install windows or hammer down shingles on what soon will be their new home.

“It's a blessing. We're very, very grateful for all the help we've received,” Joel Spears said.

Spears and his wife are the first recipients of a Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity home in the aftermath of a deadly series of tornadoes in May that wiped out hundreds of homes including in Bethel Acres, eastern Cleveland County, Moore and Carney.

The nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry is committed to building about 400 homes over the next three to five years for families displaced by the tornado. Mainly, the organization is dedicated to helping those families who have no insurance or were under-insured when their homes were lost.

Joel Spears said he and his wife sought shelter May 19 in a neighbor's storm shelter, about a block from their 2,000-square-foot double-wide mobile home. When they emerged after the storm passed, their home was no longer on its foundation.

“It had been lifted up and moved about eight feet over. It was pretty much a mess,” Joel Spears said.

Their lender-placed insurance policy only paid off the mortgage, with nothing left over to rebuild or replace the lost contents.

As both Joel and Bettie are disabled — he was injured in an industrial accident, she has lost most of her hearing — they were unable to rebuild on their own.

On behalf of the longtime Bethel Acres residents, their daughter-in-law contacted Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity. The organization is dedicated to providing affordable housing for hardworking families with limited income.

The Spears fit the bill, said Ann Felton Gilliland, president and chief executive officer of Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity.

Gilliland said the organization has teamed with Crossings Community Church in a “blitz” building campaign to get the Spears house done.

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