Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity will be in the thick of rebuilding again.
Immediate support for tornado victims is great and necessary, but it will take long-term commitment to sustain rebuilding efforts, Chairman and CEO Ann Felton Gilliland said.
Habitat built 60 houses after the May 3, 1999, tornado — in Moore, Oklahoma City, Bridge Creek and as far away as Mulhall — and plans at least as many after last Sunday and Monday's twisters, she said.
It will take money — and Felton Gilliland said she hopes that some of the money donated to storm relief finds it way to Central Oklahoma Habitat for when it comes time to actually start construction. Some did on Friday, when Hobby Lobby announced it plans to donate $1 million to Habitat, and $1 million to the Red Cross.
“It has been so heartening to see our neighbors coming together to respond so quickly to communities affected by this week's storms,” she said. “We're challenging the public to show a long-term commitment to rebuilding efforts by helping provide their fellow Oklahomans with one of life's most precious necessities: a safe affordable place to call home.”
Habitat will “blitz build” houses for tornado victims who meet the usual income guidelines and other qualifications — that means complete construction in three weeks.
Habitat homebuyers must be head of a household (can be a couple with or without children or a single person with or without children); at least a year of stable, well-paid rent and utility payment history and at least a year of stable work history; participation in financial planning and budgeting workshops and other required training; and willingness to put in at least 300 hours of “sweat equity” — working for Habitat.
People who lost homes but have lots to rebuild on are “fast-forwarded” through the process, Felton Gilliland said.
Habitat's Atlanta headquarters also is responding to tornado damage here and in Granbury, Texas. In Granbury, 57 of the houses destroyed or damaged were Habitat homes. Felton Gilliland said none of the houses affected here were built by Habitat.
After the tornadoes struck in Texas, the General Motors Foundation pledged a lead gift of $500,000. In addition, Habitat is deploying three mobile response units to the disaster areas in Texas and Oklahoma. The vehicles, vans donated by Chevrolet, are loaded with tools and equipment donated by Robert Bosch Tool Corp. for use by Habitat staff and volunteers.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the families affected by this terrible disaster,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “Habitat has a long history in this area, and we're committed to being there over the long term to help low-income families repair and rebuild their homes and to support communities as they make a new start.”
Meanwhile, the usual work of Habitat continues.
‘Landing the Dream'
The tornadoes struck just as Central Habitat for Humanity was starting its “Landing the Dream” campaign to raise $900,000 to buy a large parcel of land on Council Road near Wilshire Boulevard — enough for nearly 140 homes.
“We are excited about the possibilities this property represents and are asking for an outpouring of generosity and compassion to raise the purchase price,” Felton Gilliland wrote in an appeal letter. “We are asking you to help us provide a hand up — not a hand out — to hardworking, limited-income families who are willing to put in the sweat equity required to purchase a home from Central Oklahoma Habitat with a zero-interest loan and affordable monthly payments.”
She added, “We don't want to miss this wonderful opportunity. We have searched diligently for suitable home sites and are truly overjoyed to find such an ideal parcel of land. We believe this location will provide a safe, secure neighborhood for families and the opportunity for their children to attend the excellent Putnam City schools. Your contribution to Landing the Dream will help change the lives and futures of families forever through homeownership.”
How to help
To make a donation to Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity online, go to www.cohfh.org and click on “Donate to Oklahoma Tornado Victims.” For more information about rebuilding in the tornado-stricken area or Habitat's work in general, call 232-4828, or email Ann Felton Gilliland at AnnFelton@cohfh.org; or James Lamey at firstname.lastname@example.org; or Christi Roney at Christi.