Friday, May 24, 2013

My hands were your hands

I have lived so far away from most of my family and childhood friends for so long that part me had taken it for granted the amazing support system I have.  I really hit me this week how immensely important my friends and family are, and how willing they are to help me.

I know people can give lots of ways to help tornado victims, and no doubt programs like the Red Cross, World Vision and many others are doing an amazing job getting money and supplies to the hardest hit locations in Shawnee, Carney and Moore Oklahoma.   But I wanted to directly help.  So I reached out to my support system.  I asked them to trust me by wiring money directly to my account via paypal so I could purchase supplies.  I asked them to do so in the next two days.  I asked as many as I could and hoped a few would reply.   Whats nice about my plan is that dollar for dollar I was able to put it toward needed supplies and I was able to do it fast and get it to the tornado site fast.  This quick turn around is critical in times like this when immediate help is necessary. 

The money started to trickle in.  Then faster, and then even more came, and wow it just kept coming.  Chirp went my phone over and over, "You received $$$ from someone".   I kept a running total... and it just kept adding up.  I kept sending my mom messages with the new totals, always blown away by how generous everyone has been!  48 hours after my initial plea I had $720 to spend!  WOWSERS!    When I starting looking at the donations, I realized people had sent me money from 8 different states!  Shout out to Missouri, Texas, New York, North Carolina, Georgia, California, Washington, and of course PENNSYLVANIA! 


I immediately called around to see if the local stores had enough diapers in stock only to find supplies were limited.  Thankfully I just started a free month of amazon prime so I was able to get free 2 day delivery.  I made a huge order online on Tuesday so it would arrive by Thursday.  I spent $350 which gave me 1,384 diapers and 2,496 wipes.   That's a lot of clean butts we can help out with.  


 Next stop was the local walmart, which by Wednesday had been able to restock a lot of the needed supplies.  Since I am 30 miles from Carney and 60 miles from Moore I have the advantage of being close enough to help easily but not so close that supplies or roads were unavailable.  I used an updated list that was sent out from Carney to get specific supplies that were needed in the area.  My friend Rachel helped me pick out items and track our spending.  We foolishly started with only one cart, quickly filling it and moving on to fill a second!  What was funny is twice we thought we were done only to get another message about another donation so we kept piling on the supplies!   Then again after I had checked out and loaded the jeep I got a last minute donation and ran back inside to spend even more! 

We purchased another $450+ in supplies with some help in donations Rachel provided as well!
Including:
10 plastic totes/bins
heavy garbage bags
and entire bin full of baby food
bottles/sippy cups
children's bowls and utensils
nuks/pacificers
a LOT of individual wrapped snacks 
medicine
sunblock
laundry detergent 
dryer sheets 
toilet paper

Partly, I was surprised how quickly I spent the money but when you buy the jumbo packages in multiples in tends to go fast.  I was no less impressed with the booty I was able to pack up.  It was a ton of good stuff.  Between the diapers and supplies I filled my jeep TWICE.  

On Thursday and Friday I helped pass all the this stuff along to my friend (and Badge Wife!) Tawni, who was loading an entire trailer full of stuff to take to Carney.  Rain delays meant she will travel down tonight (Friday) to start helping with relief efforts.  We decided to send this stuff to Carney (only 30 miles from me) because this area has received a little less help than Moore.  Moore has much more damage but has also received a lot more national news so the help is also more available.  

As for the next steps, there is a lot of clean up to do.  This weekend I am holding down the home front by providing child care so others can head to Carney and Moore to aid in clean up and organization.  But the needs are still here.  Specifically I have been asked for gift cards to purchase fuel (for tractors, chain saws and other equipment), sock and shoes, and even more plastic containers.  People are trying to salvage things from damaged homes and need safe, dry places to store items they want to keep.  If you want to help me continue to get items to Carney or Moore please use PayPal ( https://www.paypal.com/webapps/mpp/send-money-online ) to send me instant money. There are NO FEES if you use your bank account or PayPal balance. This is also a secure way to send money, without sharing your banking information.
Use my email address: andrea.skimbo@okstate.edu

What I have noticed is that everyone here is doing their part.  No one is shrugging this off, everyone is finding some way to contribute.  But that's part of Oklahoma culture, to help your neighbor.  I am sure I will be involved with helping in some way or another for a long time.  I hope to go visit the tornado sites at some point to help with clean up or rebuilding.  This effort will not stop after the news coverage does, we will be rebuilding for a long time. 

What really blows me away is that my friends and family that sent money to help aren't from Oklahoma.  They are all hundreds and hundreds of miles away but they are still willing to do their part to help.  In prayers, in donations, and in love.   I know lots of you have told me that you are proud of me, and thank you for saying that but really I am proud of you guys.  It sort of went without saying that I would help people so close to me but your gifts were not expected.  It means a lot then when I asked, you were there for me when it mattered most.  I was able to count on your support and it IS making a difference.  Thank you to all those who trusted me to send money, it was well spent.  

As I said in my picture on facebook "Today I was your hands.  Today, your heart was with my heart".  I couldn't have done what I did without your help, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  My support system is awesome.  I hope you all realize how much of a blessing it is for me to have you in my life.  When I tell this story of how I received so much, so quickly people keep asking "How did you do that?".  My answer is easy - I have a lot of people who love me and want to help me.  I have people who know God teaches to have a giving heart.  I have family who trust me, I have friends who support me.  I am not a lucky girl - I am a blessed girl! 

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