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Oklahoma tornadoes: Norman church volunteers to help volunteers

Volunteers from Crosspointe Church in Norman provide food and shelter for tornado volunteers.
by Jonathan Sutton Modified: May 31, 2013 at 9:22 pm •  Published: June 1, 2013

The May 20 tornado spurred volunteers to help victims clean up debris and begin to rebuild, but not everybody could do the heavy lifting.

A church and its members in Norman found another way to lend a hand. They volunteered to help volunteers.

Crosspointe Church, 2601 24th Ave SE, provided food and shelter to more than 80 out-of-town volunteers at the height of the cleanup effort and still is hosting a few people in the church's community center.

Brandy White, director of the community center, said the church offered shelter to tornado victims, but none came.

Instead, volunteers who came from Nevada, Wisconsin, Texas, New York, Kansas, Ohio and Arkansas were offered the church's hospitality.

The church received donations of food, toiletries, blankets, pillows and air mattresses and made it all available to the volunteers. The church also provided two fresh-cooked meals a day.

Men slept in the gym, women slept in an aerobics room, and families with children made Sunday school classrooms into temporary homes.

Keeping it clean

The volunteers produced large amounts of dirty laundry.

Mary Roberts, who helped coordinate the effort, said the church's washer and dryer were pushed to their limits. But members helped with that, too.

“The elderly women at the church have really helped with the laundry,” she said. “They come in and take loads, and they come back the next morning with it all folded and ironed.”

And despite the church having only six showers, White said the volunteers had no problem sharing and never ran out of hot water.

Helping people help

Overall, about 50 church members donated time and supplies to help make the visitors' stay easier.

Christian Spears, 20, flew from Staten Island, N.Y., with three friends Monday to help with the recovery. They staying at the church all week.

“We feel like we're at home; it's like a family,” Spears said. “You feel like you're wanted.”

Roberts said she was in a similar situation as those staying at the church when she went to volunteer after Hurricane Katrina. She said she tried to offer things she would have liked when she was a relief worker, such as maps of the city and lists of things to do for entertainment.

Roberts said she stayed at Crosspointe for a week, sleeping in an office to make sure she would be there to help if needed.

The number of volunteers had dwindled to about 15 by the end of the week, but White said she has received calls from several church groups asking whether they could stay.

“It is never in question whether our facilities are available,” she said.

Spears said he and his friends planned to leave by the weekend but hope to come back in two weeks to continue volunteering. And if they do, they plan to come back to Crosspointe.

by Jonathan Sutton
Breaking News Reporter
Jonathan Sutton is a reporter covering breaking news and crime for The Oklahoman and He grew up in Ada and has a degree in journalism from Oklahoma State University. He was the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily O'Collegian, OSU's student...
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