By Jessica Salmond
The Norman Transcript
MOORE — Ron and Laura Sylvester, members of the Piedmont Nazarene Church, stopped at the Moore Church of the Nazarene to drop off supplies for tornado relief efforts. But after that visit, they’ve “been here ever since,” Sylvester said.
Since unofficially taking on the role of directors for the relief effort at the Moore church, which suffered roof damage from the tornado on May 20, the Sylvesters have been overflowing with volunteers, supplies and food from all over the city and the nation.
“It’s like a big funeral — the first thing people do is bring food,” Sylvester said. The church has accepted food from many places: sandwich stores, pizza places and other churches making hot meals for distribution. Twice a day they serve anyone that needs a meal. If the site gets too much food, volunteers drive out into the neighborhoods and hand out meals to people cleaning up rubble.
On Thursday, they served pulled pork sandwiches and chips. Ron said that being able to feed volunteers who are coming in from all over the country has been especially important.
“For us to be able to help them has been really great,” he said.
With the help of volunteers, the church had been organized to accommodate most of the supplies that have been donated. One group of volunteers from Trinity Church of the Nazarene in Naperville, Ill., has been helping the Sylvesters since Sunday to sort through all the donations. More donations arrive daily from businesses, churches and organizations such as the Red Cross.
“It’s just this amazing outpouring of people’s love,” Sylvester said.
When the Naperville group arrived, the Moore church was overwhelmed with items such as clothes, diapers and food. They organized several rooms, specifying areas for food, toiletries, baby items, toys and clothes.
“We want to give them their church back,” Brandon Carter, a Trinity Naperville volunteer, said.
They are also making boxes of supplies for distribution to support two to three people at a time. Shelves in the main room have been made out of trees that were razed during the severe weather.
“I feel really good that we set up an infrastructure” for future volunteers, Carter said.
Even with the organization, however, the church’s yard is covered in tarps with more items. The church’s steeple, which capsized during the tornado, rests on the ground in one piece as a team from Benn Roofing Inc. of Bethany works to repair the building’s roof.
Youth With A Mission (YWAM), an international Christian volunteer organization, stopped at the church as a lunch spot while volunteering in Moore. The group of parents and children traveled from Tyler, Texas to assist with relief efforts.
“We never knew tornadoes could be that powerful,” Isabel Kwester, a YWAM volunteer, said.
Moore Church of the Nazarene is located at 404 S. Janeway Avenue.
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Many churches are aiding in the relief efforts for the recent tornadoes, including:
— NorthHaven Church, 4600 36th Avenue N.W. in Norman, is acting as a supply drop-off for individuals and businesses wishing to donate items. One member of the church, a psychologist, is preparing a workshop for late summer to guide teachers in helping students deal with traumatic events, such as the tornadoes.
— St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, 3939 W. Tecumseh Road in Norman, is assisting affected parishioners and other individuals with financial assistance, such as giving out gift cards and money and helping with deposits for new residences and insurance deductibles.
— First Baptist Church of Moore, 301 N.E. 27th Street, provided transportation in the first days after the tornado. Now they continue t send out food trucks and work teams to help victims and volunteers clean up the wreckage. They also obtained several large cargo crates, “sea crates” to hold the mass amount of donated items received.