Oklahoma tornado victims get free furniture restoration classes

A furniture restoration expert offered tips to survivors of Oklahoma's May tornadoes during a workshop in Edmond.
BY STEVE GUST Published: August 15, 2013
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— A few hours of creativity was among the many gifts that have been offered to May tornado survivors.

Allison Griffith, of Refunk My Junk, taught a furniture restoration class on Saturday to about a dozen people who are rebuilding their homes.

“When they come home and see furniture they have worked on, it's special to know it's their own,” said Griffith, who held the class at the Edmond Fine Arts Institute. “It also relieves some of the stress.”

The class fee is normally $175, but tornado survivors paid nothing. Proceeds from a second class for students not affected by the tornadoes went to tornado relief efforts.

“We donated all of that to the Salvation Army,” said Griffith, a former bank executive.

Class members found it helpful to interact with others who are putting their lives back together after the storms.

Among the students were schoolteachers Loretta and Kyle Childers, of Bethel Acres. They said their home was destroyed May 19 as they huddled in a relative's cellar.

“We're excited to be here,” Loretta Childers said as she painted wood. They had picked up some items at a garage sale to help furnish their new home.

Tanya Mandt said her Moore home had $70,000 worth of damage. She was on the north side of the metro when the EF5 twister hit.

“Nothing is back to normal yet,” she said, although the home is salvageable. “You can look in my backyard and see where other homes were leveled.”

She planned to go home and make a bookshelf look good again.

Mandi Robbins has now survived two tornadoes.

“I was in the May 3 one also,” she said of the 1999 tornado. She sought shelter from this one with her parents. Afterward, she had to go to Plaza Towers Elementary to find her second-grade daughter.

“We finally found her, and she was OK,” Robbins said. “So, that was the best day and worst day.”

Good stewards

Do-it-yourself furniture restoration is becoming more popular, Griffith said.

“A lot of people may not want to pay for new furniture or not like the style of furniture handed down,” she said. “There is a lot of interest in this.”

For the afternoon class, paying students came from Lawton, Dallas and even South Dakota.

The tornado victims, who each provided a FEMA identification number, drew the attention of CeCe Caldwell, a paint business owner making her first trip to Oklahoma. The class was using her paint, which doesn't need primer or sanding.

Caldwell came from Prescott, Ariz.

“We had our own tragedy there,” she said, referring to the 19 firefighters killed in June while fighting a wildfire. “Our company believes in being stewards of our neighbors and giving back. That's why I'm here.”



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