As a result of overwhelming response from its members nationwide, AARP Oklahoma today announced the first of 11 grants to help victims of Oklahoma tornadoes – a $125,000 donation to the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO).
“The immediate concern and support from AARP members was overwhelming,” said AARP State Director Sean Voskuhl. “People from across the country opened their hearts and their wallets in a powerful way to help the people affected by the devastating storms in Oklahoma. It is appropriate we make this first grant to the BGCO because Baptist Disaster Relief Teams were among the first providing help on the ground and are now committed to long-term recovery efforts. On behalf of our more than 410,000 members in Oklahoma, AARP and AARP Foundation is pleased to make this donation to the BGCO and applauds the leadership and compassion Oklahoma Baptists continue to show. Our thoughts and prayers are with those still recovering.”
“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of the AARP leadership and membership to invest in the relief work of Oklahoma Baptists,” said Dr. Anthony L. Jordan, Executive Director-Treasurer. “These dollars all go to help victims of the devastating May tornadoes and are giving people hope and faith in God as He works through His people.”
Within hours of the May storms, AARP Foundation established an Oklahoma relief fund to support victims. AARP and AARP Foundation matched dollar-for-dollar contributions up to $300,000 resulting in a total of $673,000 raised from more than 6,000 people, Voskuhl said. All organizations receiving grants have signed a letter of agreement and submitted a plan detailing how they will use funding to help storm victims. In addition, grantees have committed that 100% of funds will be used for direct assistance in Oklahoma and no portion will be used for administrative costs. Each organization will send a final report to AARP detailing the full expenditure of its grant money.
“From our past experience in events like this, the recovery will take many months if not years,” said Sam Porter, BGCO Disaster Relief Director. “It has been an incredible journey to watch the hand of the Lord work through individuals, churches, and businesses to help the victims of the recent tornado devastation in Oklahoma. The $125,000 grant from AARP will go a long way in helping families with members 50 years and older to reestablishing the normalcy of their lives.”
The BGCO says it will use the grant to continue long-term recovery in communities affected by the May 19th, 20th and 31st storms of 2013. This includes sites in Bethel Acres, Broken Arrow, Carney, Dale, Dewar, Edmond, El Reno, Little Axe, McCloud, Moore, Oklahoma City, Poteau, Shawnee and Weleetka. This will include debris cleanup including chain sawing removal of destroyed and broken trees, sifting, sorting and searching for personal family valuables among debris and debris removal. The BGCO also will provide financial assistance for under-insured or non-insured homeowners 50+. Where possible widows, the physically challenged and special needs individuals will also be identified as appropriate recipients of assistance in storm recovery efforts.
AARP is committed to helping those in need and continues to participate in long-term recovery committee meetings in Pottawatomie and Oklahoma/Cleveland counties, Voskuhl said. The association will be announcing additional local grants that will help tornado victims over the next several weeks.