Oklahoma octogenarians hammer home the value of acting on faith

A group of Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers, including several in their 80s, stays busy volunteering as part of the Nail Benders crew from First Baptist Church of Duncan.
by Carla Hinton Modified: February 21, 2014 at 2:56 pm •  Published: February 22, 2014

Gerald Vincent, of Duncan, can't recall how many homes he has helped build over the years.

To Vincent, 87, numbers don't mean much — but people do.

What matters, he said, are the smiles on the faces of families who are provided new homes, refurbished residences and property repairs they couldn't afford or do on their own.

“We really are concerned when people are displaced when they have disasters. We're glad that we can provide a place to stay — a home for them,” Vincent said recently.

His simple philosophy is shared among other members of the Nail Benders, a group of older men including several octogenarians from First Baptist Church of Duncan.

The retirees keep busy and in shape by doing things like installing wheelchair ramps for homeowners who need easier accessibility. The 80-somethings also install windows and doors, refurbish mobile homes, make household repairs and help build houses from the ground up.

“None of us go to the gym or anything,” said Damon Phillips, 81, the group's crew chief.

“We get our exercise helping others. It's a great way to serve the Lord.”

‘We don't back away'

The Nail Benders recently converged on the community of Little Axe to refurbish a mobile home for a victim of the May 2013 tornadoes. The resident's trailer survived the storms, but leaks from the heavy rains resulted in black mold that made for unsuitable living conditions.

Phillips said most of the Nail Benders, like Vincent, started out as Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers. At one time, the group, which is still affiliated with Baptist Disaster Relief, included about 15 men, but its numbers have dwindled in recent years because some members have died or have health ailments, he said. Of the four Nail Benders who worked on the Little Axe mobile home, the youngest was 69 and the oldest was Vincent, Phillips 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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