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Okla. ‘Project Rebuild’ seeking vols to build 60 houses for tor

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–It was a gathering not often seen — Southern Baptists, Methodists and Mennonites united in a common purpose with their secular counterparts and congregated on the south plaza of the Oklahoma State Capitol — a scene brightly illuminated by the scorching Oklahoma summer sun and framed on three sides by tractor-trailers loaded with construction materials.
On July 9, religious, social service, government and building industry representatives banded together to announce “Project Rebuild,” a program that “represents civic spirit at its very best,” said Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating. The national campaign, sponsored by the Oklahoma Lumbermen’s Association, aims at constructing 60 homes for the neediest of victims of last spring’s devastating rash of tornadoes.
“The big issue here, and why we are here, is a rebuilding effort for those who can’t help themselves,” Keating said in helping to kick off the $3.6 million campaign.
Sam Porter, disaster relief coordinator for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, later put a biblical perspective on the undertaking. Citing James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world,” Porter said Project Rebuild is a perfect opportunity for Baptists to make a difference for fellow Oklahomans who virtually have no other options.
“We’re doing just what the governor said, helping folks who can’t help themselves,” said Porter, who has spent countless hours coordinating Baptist disaster relief work across the state since the twisters rampaged through the Sooner State’s midsection May 3. “You’re basically looking at widows, elderly couples and possibly single parents who just cannot afford to rebuild the homes they lost in the tornadoes.
“We’re way past the picking up debris stage and way past the moving furniture stage; we’re now in the rebuilding stage and this is a very worthwhile project,” Porter said.
Project Rebuild is a collaborative effort by members of the lumbermen’s group, who are donating materials, and groups associated with Oklahoma Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), which will provide volunteers to do the labor required to build the houses. Porter said the project may take as long as a year to complete.
Sharilyn Young, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Lumbermen’s Association, said the tornadoes destroyed more than 3,000 homes and damaged 4,000 others. “It’s appropriate and timely for the lumber and building material industry to rally forces around Oklahoma’s recovery effort and give back to the communities which have helped foster their growth and prosperity.”
As for the role Oklahoma Baptists — and Baptists across the nation — can play in Project Rebuild, Porter said, “My prayer and desire is to see men’s groups and church groups come together and say, ‘This is something we can do.’ For example, we have 1,650 Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma, and every one of those congregations has somebody with building skills.
“I’m asking for a whole new group to come forward and help in this really unusual time; it’s a great opportunity for Southern Baptists to minister across the state.”
Porter said the group most commonly associated with construction projects in the state — the Baptist Builders — will not officially be a part of Project Rebuild.
“These guys are backed up building churches all over the state,” he pointed out. “Last year, they built 41 church buildings in Oklahoma, and on any given day of the year, there is at least one church building going up in our state through their efforts.”
Porter said he hopes “to see some of our Baptist men — probably some in the metropolitan area — step up and serve as a building superintendent or foreman or whatever you want to call it. But, if we have some men or women who don’t feel like they have the capability of overseeing a job, the opportunity exists to serve with some of our brethren from other denominations.”
As Project Rebuild unfolds, Mennonite builders are already at work in the Mulhall and Dover areas north of Oklahoma City, while Methodist workers are at work in one of the state’s hardest-hit areas, Bridge Creek, just southwest of the metro area.
“I have spoken with the leader of the Mennonite builders, and he said he’d love to have Baptists come work with them,” Porter said. “Their organization is committed to remaining in Oklahoma for at least a year rebuilding homes for those who need it.”
Various floor plans are available for the houses to be built, including one-, two- and three-bedroom versions. Most of the houses will contain approximately 1,000 square feet and be worth about $55,000.
“No larger than these houses are, if you have a couple of guys who can give direction, and about 10 or so guys who can do the grunt work, you can probably build one of them in about three weeks,” Porter said. “We just need willing workers with some knowledge of running a hammer.”
Individuals or church groups interested in volunteering to help do the construction should contact Porter at (405) 942-3800, ext. 337.
“Our biggest need right now is not finances, but people willing to do the work required — especially those who would be willing to take on a project and act as a supervisor,” Porter reiterated.
Recipients of the houses will undergo a rigid screening process by social service agencies, including the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Associated Catholic Charities, Adventist Community Services, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Social Services, Lutheran Social Services Bartimeus Ministries and others.
As of July 13, donations toward completing the project totaled $425,500. That included approximately $225,900 worth of nails, screws, shingles, vinyl siding, paneling and molding from PrimeSource Building Products; almost 100,000 square feet of plywood and other decking materials from Georgia-Pacific, Boise Cascade and Weyerhauser; almost 115,000 square feet of masonite exterior trim, siding and sheathing from Masonite Corporation and Arrowhead Lumber; 84,664 square feet of drywall from Republic Gypsum; 1,070 gallons of paint from Valspar Corporation; 46 tons of rebar from Sheffield Steel Corporation; and additional lumber and building materials from Cedar Creek Wholesale and Macklanburg-Duncan Company.
Jim Cavanaugh, president and CEO of Hope Lumber and Supply, the fifth-largest dealer serving the home building industry in the United States, is serving as national Project Rebuild campaign chairman.

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  • Bob Nigh