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Older Oklahomans benefit from tornado-recovery grants

The AARP is helping older Oklahomans overcome the challenges they face recovering from devastating storms.
by Robert Medley Published: August 24, 2013

Henry and Carole Willis, both 83, lost everything they owned in the May 20 tornado. They survived the EF5 twister in a storm shelter, but their house and belongings didn't make it.

That house in Moore was their home for more than 30 years. It's where they planned to live out their lives.

It was comfortably paid off, Carole Willis said.

Friday, they got the keys to a new home in south Oklahoma City.

“I can't describe how happy we are to move into a new house,” Henry Willis said.

Insurance money has helped them buy a new house, Carole Willis said, but it was a grant from AARP Oklahoma that helped them get through the summer in a temporary residence.

Henry Willis is a retired electrician who taught Choctaw language courses at the University of Oklahoma. His wife is a retired Oklahoma City Public Schools administrator who also taught at OU. The challenge of recovering from devastating tornadoes has been tough for them.

AARP Oklahoma is providing funds for long-term recovery to many older Oklahomans affected by the storms.

The association has raised $674,000 from people nationwide to fund grants to 11 Oklahoma nonprofit agencies.

The agency that helped the Willises is the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.

The Rev. David Wilson, superintendent of the conference, said his agency received a $24,000 grant, which was used to help 50 people in five counties affected by spring storms.

The conference found an empty parsonage at Angie Smith Memorial United Methodist Church in south Oklahoma City and spent more than $4,000 on repairs, setting up utilities and buying appliances so the Willises could live there until they got their new house.

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by Robert Medley
Breaking News Reporter
Robert Medley has been a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1989, covering various news beats in the Oklahoma City metro area and in the Norman news bureau. He has been part of the breaking news team since 2008. A 1987 University of Oklahoma...
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