Survivors of the May tornadoes that ravaged several Oklahoma neighborhoods and rural communities recently received free household items to help them start anew.
Several Roman Catholic nonprofit organizations and agencies recently teamed up with the United Way of Oklahoma City for the “House in a Box” disaster assistance program. As part of the effort, tornado survivors were invited to shop for free household goods on July 20 in Oklahoma City.
The collaboration included the National Council of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul, plus the Society of St. Vincent de Paul's Oklahoma City Council and south central region. Other partners included the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City and the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. Also in attendance at the recent Oklahoma City outreach were corporate representatives from Ashley Furniture and Mathis Mattresses, two companies that donated mattresses for the effort, courtesy of Tempurpedic.
Organizers said “House in a Box” supplies critical items to furnish an entire home, including furniture, dishes, towels, toiletries, food and clothing.
The program was introduced to help survivors of Hurricane Katrina and it was refined during the Texas wildfires of 2011. During Hurricane Katrina, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul provided about 15,000 “House in a Box” setups, they said.
Meanwhile, families at the July 13 distribution chose furniture and other goods, and they also were encouraged to eat a free meal provided by the St. Vincent de Paul's “Help Our People Eat” or HOPE Mobile Kitchen.
Help in a box
Elias Garcia and his two daughters picked out furniture at the recent event. Garcia said the family's home was destroyed by a tornado in May. He said he and his wife and his four children have relocated to another home, but they did not have furniture until they received their “House in a Box.”
Another tornado survivor, Mary DeJulius, said she and her family can still live in her home, although it was heavily damaged in the storm. She said parts of the back of her house have been boarded up and she and family members have been sleeping on air mattresses. She said she was excited and grateful for the furniture she received as part of the recent disaster assistance outreach.
The Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, said a special blessing at the warehouse distribution site as volunteers and tornado survivors gathered together.