Timothy Baptist Church will set aside this year's Independence celebration to focus on helping flood victims.

"We're taking the funds we had and giving 60 percent to disaster relief as well as victims of the flooding who lost their homes," said Pastor Kelly Payne. Remaining money will go for community events later this year.

For 13 years, thousands came to Timothy's Independence celebration at its church west of Muskogee. The celebration featured free hamburgers and hot dogs, face painting, games. It concluded with a fireworks display at dusk.

Payne said a person who did the event's fireworks was injured last year.

"After he got hurt, he agreed with his family that he was going to retire from it," Payne said. "We had a really hard time finding someone affordable who would do it, for this year anyway."

Payne said the church spent a little more than $10,000 on the celebration.

This year, the church will distribute part of those funds to church members who had lost their homes. Payne said two church families who live near Okay lost their homes.

"We also have several farmers in our church who lost a lot of their crops," Payne said. "We're giving some to them and to disaster relief to homes in Webbers Falls and Fort Gibson." 

The church also will give part to Muskogee Baptist Disaster Relief, which is sending volunteers to clean damaged homes in Fort Gibson and Webbers Falls, Payne said.

Remaining money will go for community events similar to some the church sponsored seven or eight years ago.

"We'd buy out the water park and let families use it for free, or buy out the movie theater and let families see a movie for free," Payne said.

Dates for those events have not been set. 

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