Braylee Rae Henry anticipated her volunteer opportunities at an Oklahoma City emergency homeless shelter.
The Velma teen was inspired by the many ways that the Jesus House touched the lives of the poor and the down and out in the metro area. Visiting with her 4-H group each year, Henry, 16, could talk of nothing else when she returned home to her busy life as a high school basketball player, National FFA Organization leader and student council member.
Her mother, Renee Henson, said she promised Braylee that she would go with her when the 4-H Teen Leaders group made its planned fall/winter 2012 trip to the shelter.
Henson made good on that promise — and more — on a recent sunny Saturday.
Braylee was killed June 6 after she went to a Velma convenience store for a soft drink and a candy bar. Her body was found in a field. The Stephens County district attorney formally charged Miles Bench, of Davis, a clerk at the convenience store, in the teen's death.
To honor the teen's memory, Henson, other members of Braylee's family and a host of friends converged on the Jesus House warehouse at 1401 W Sheridan to refurbish the prayer room there.
“This place just touched her heart and she was planning to come back in December with 4-H,” Henson said.
So they painted and installed furniture.
They hung pictures, blinds and curtains.
“We're here to keep her memory and what she stood for alive. She loved God, her family and other people,” Henson said.
Each volunteer said Braylee would have loved the project, so they did it for her.
“This is for Braylee,” they said.
This is for Braylee.
Teen's love for others lives on
Rick Denny, Jesus House executive director, said the prayer room is used by shelter staff to take many individuals and families for prayer as they come to the warehouse during the shelter's food distribution times. He said the room was outfitted with a few tables and chairs, but had recently sustained smoke damage during an August fire that was determined to be arson.
He said he liked the idea of the refurbishment project for Braylee because it shows how the shelter's work can affect not just the lives of those served but those who serve there.
“It's an honor to be involved in her memory like this. It's tremendous,” Denny said.
“Her mom said she talked about the people she came in contact with here quite often. I can identify with that. It was neat to hear that a young person had that kind of outlook for others.”
J.B. Henson, Braylee's stepfather, said it was only fitting that the Jesus House be a place where the teen's legacy will live on. Denny and the family agreed that the prayer room would be named the Braylee Rae Henry Memorial Prayer Room in the young woman's honor.
The group of about 25 of Braylee's family and friends transformed the smoke-damaged room into a light, airy, pleasantly decorated prayer haven. The project included a new couch, tables, chairs, window blinds, lamps, decorations, a rug, pictures and a large Bible with “The Jesus House” engraved on the cover.
Randy and Sherrie Smith helped hang window blinds, paint and performed other tasks during the Sept. 22 project to honor Braylee. Randy Smith said he was one of Braylee's teachers and student council advisers. He said his wife was Braylee's Sunday school teacher at Countryside Free Will Baptist Church.
Her fellow 4-H members, Jesse Anderson, 16, Meagan Bourne, 17, Bita Humphreys, 18, and Sidney Lewis, 17, also helped paint the room.
Anderson said she and Braylee were close friends and that is why she got a tattoo of one of Braylee's last Facebook postings — “Count your blessings” — on her shoulder, along with her buddy's initials.
“I think she'd be excited about this. She'd be painting,” Anderson said.
“We would count down to the day that we would come here,” she said.
Graphic artist and Velma Police officer Debbie Richardson designed and painted colorful murals.
“Velma is a very tight-knit community,” she said. “There's not anywhere else I need to be today besides here.”
Renee Henson, a hint of sadness in her eyes, smiled as she looked at the group of volunteers busy about their tasks.
“Braylee would be so honored that we were out here today,” she said. “She made me promise that I would come out here so I could see for myself and I promised her I would.