, Muskogee, OK

May 25, 2013

Businesses, governments join storm relief efforts

County workers, donated supplies go to disaster area

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Assistance poured into central Oklahoma from Green Country, where county governments, corporations and others continued to assist recovery efforts following this week’s deadly storms.

Muskogee County Commissioner Gene Wallace, District 1, said nearly 30 county workers from four counties left town early Friday to help out. Wallace said Oklahoma County commissioners requested the extra help.

Wallace, who also is the president of the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma, said he and colleagues from across the state have provided resources used during the recovery efforts at Moore and other hard-hit areas. Equipment has been brought in from contiguous counties to help clear debris strewn throughout the streets.

“They are trying to get all the brush and other debris that has piled up away from the houses and get the roads clear — most of those roads are blocked,” Wallace said. “The first thing I heard them say was we needed more tools, which was one of their biggest frustrations. If we would have had more tools, we could have gotten a lot more done.”

Meanwhile, employees at Georgia-Pacific’s Muskogee mill loaded six trailers with paper goods. Convoy of Hope drivers queued up their tractor-trailer rigs at the loading docks before heading toward Moore with tissues, towels, plates and cups.

Julie VanDeWater, a Georgia-Pacific spokeswoman, said the donated paper products are in addition to a $1 million donation from Koch Industries. The privately held company owns Georgia-Pacific.

Half of the money will go to the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund set up by Gov. Mary Fallin in conjunction with the United Way of Central Oklahoma. The other half will go to the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army to help storm survivors with housing, transportation, clothing and more.

Rodney Bond, the vice president and manager at the Muskogee mill, described the donations as “a small way in which we can help our neighbors and support relief efforts in these communities.”

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who have been affected by the devastating tornados in Moore and Shawnee this week,” Bond said. “Oklahoma is our home, and this tragedy has affected all of us that live in this great state.”

The Georgia-Pacific donations came from company facilities in Naheola, Ala., Fort Smith, Ark., and Muskogee. VanDeWater said Georgia-Pacific employees also donated 38 pints of blood during a Red Cross blood drive Tuesday. Another blood drive at the mill is scheduled Wednesday.

Convoy of Hope, a Springfield, Mo., nonprofit organization that specializes in children’s feeding initiatives, community outreach, disaster response and partner resourcing, provided transportation. Representatives of the faith-based organization say the nonprofit has served more than 55 million people since it was founded in 1994.

Wallace, who saw the damage firsthand, said there is one sure thing that has come out of this storm:

“The community spirit is alive and well. Perseverance and dedication will eventually win out — that is the spirit we all possess.”

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or