An outpouring of support resulted in more than $50,000 being handed to victims of the May 25 tornado that killed two people and left two dozen homeless.
El Reno Mayor Matt White and city staff coordinated the effort Wednesday at the Public Safety Center on SW 27th St.
The funds had been contributed to a GoFundMe account set up by the city of El Reno. The money will help those displaced by the EF-3 tornado that demolished mobile homes at the Skyview Mobile Home Park.
It will be used for temporary housing, food and a variety of other reasons.
“I think we’ve all worked really hard,” said White.
“I’m glad everybody came out today so we could assess the needs of the people and see where we’re at.”
The GoFundMe dollar amount continues to climb. Donors have come from within the community as well as the business sector and even outside of Oklahoma.
White said the amount is likely to grow more with pledges received from entities such as Jones Energy and Great Plains Bank.
At the registration event, survivors continued to recount their harrowing experiences, many describing close brushes with injury and death.
“It picked up our trailer while we were inside and then set us upside down,” said Shane Clark.
He had been in his trailer with his wife, Jenny. Also with them were their 14 dogs, one of which didn’t survive. The couple suffered cuts and bruises, including a long-lasting mark on Shane’s arm from being pinned. Jenny’s foot was broken in several places.
There was a storm shelter at the trailer park, but the warning came too late.
“I heard the warning from my phone, but I didn’t know where the tornado was,” said Clark. “I opened the door for us to leave, but it was too late. I spun around and put my arms around my wife. We were pulled apart, but I still had a hold on her shirt. It sounded like 20 freight trains or a million Black Cat firecrackers going off by your ear.”
The Clarks were saved by a loveseat and a couch on either side. Their home was destroyed. They are currently staying with family members.
Abraham Perez also suffered the loss of his home, but he is thankful the twister didn’t claim the lives of his wife and two children.
“I was out getting milk with my son,” said Perez. “My wife called and told me it felt and sounded like an airplane over them. It broke the windows and tore part of the roof off.”
Perez said he was lucky to have taken his son out of the house. If he hadn’t, a large rock that shattered through the boy’s bedroom window may have caused serious injury had he been in there. He said his children don't understand what happened.
“When we went back to the house again, Jose ran to get his toys. He doesn't understand what’s going on. He still believes that the trailer is his home.”
Perez and four other families are staying in apartments. Two or three families are still staying in various hotels. The residents whose homes were not damaged have returned to Skyview.
Andrew Skidmore, director of Canadian County Emergency Management, said helping the homeless acquire permanent housing is a long process that’s in the preliminary stages.
“We are figuring out where they’ll all be staying and identifying their needs,” he said.
It is likely that some of the trailers will be replaced.
Various churches and nonprofits have been providing a listening ear for the victims and gathering an inventory of their needs.
“All the churches come together, in-state and out of state,” said Tommy Meely, pastor at the El Reno Indian Baptist Church.
“After the initial donations, we want to continue walking alongside the victims and help them through their time of recovery. We are helping them with their physical needs and with spiritual encouragement.”
Members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Association are offering food, clothing, shoes and any other kind of assistance. Indian churches from New Mexico, Florida and North Carolina have all offered support.
Local organizations are also helping provide for both tornado victims as well as the victims of the flooding that came days before the deadly twister hit. On the night of the tornado, VFW Post 382 opened up to give the displaced temporary shelter. Since then, the veterans organization has given victims innumerable items.
After all the donations have come in, what’s left over will be distributed to a crisis center through Wesley United Methodist Church.
The National VFW Association and the American Legion have made grants available for veteran victims. For more information about the grants or the donations, call Nancy Salsman at 405-641-4284.
White declared an emergency for El Reno due to the tornado and the flooding. The move is a step in hopefully securing federal assistance.