NORMAN — Usually they do free cleanup work to assist residents who are dealing with tornado damage, but Mormon Helping Hands, a group from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined forces with others recently to go a step beyond.
Porfirio Ochoa, the president of the Spanish speaking congregation in Norman, heard the voice of Vidal Romero, on KUTZ 106.7 Spanish radio, describing tornado damage to his small home.
“His roof had been blown off and he had no insurance,” said Ochoa, “So Joseph Datin and I came down to have a look. It looked like something we could help with. So I brought the idea to the meeting of our stake presidency and the bishoprics on Thursday. They approved and we started the work on Saturday.”
“There are a lot of members of our congregation who know roofs. That’s the kind of work they do every day,” said Alli Goodfellow, who lives and works as a missionary in Norman and was working at the site.
Members of the Spanish congregation and Spanish speaking missionaries in the Norman area worked together to salvage pieces of the roof that had been blown into the field behind the house. What they couldn’t salvage they carried to the curb for pick up and replaced with donated materials. And within a day and a half they had cleared the debris and constructed a new roof deck.
“When you are new to a country like some of us are, it’s sometimes hard to know how to be of effective help for your fellow men,” said Ochoa as he surveyed the work site. “This has been a wonderful opportunity for us to learn how to do that here as we follow Jesus Christ.”
Ochoa wasn’t the only person who heard and responded to the report of the damaged roof. Ignacio Perez, a local roofing subcontractor, noticed that someone had posted a photo of the roofless house on his brother’s Facebook page.
“So I came to see,” he said, “and I saw that I could help. I had shingles at my business. But I didn’t want to just drop them off. I wanted to do the job well.”
So late Sunday morning, as the church group finished the roof deck, Perez and his brothers and some friends climbed onto the roof and started shingling.
In the meantime, the Mormon Helping Hands group had met the next door neighbor who was dealing with a yard full of downed and broken trees and needed help clearing it out.
“That’s what we’re doing now,” said Whitney Porter, stretching her arms to show the group of volunteers cutting and hauling brush and trees to the curb. “I arrived in Oklahoma three weeks ago to do mission work. Since the tornados hit, this is what we do every day. It’s great.”
“It is tiring work,” said Manuel Ochoa, of Norman, as he dragged brush to the curb, “but seeing the face of the homeowners and hearing how they feel energizes you.”
The work also makes you hungry, and at noon members of Perez’s crew and the church volunteers shared tortillas and a big pot of taco filling that the homeowner’s family had made to express their appreciation. And then they climbed back onto the roof and headed back to the neighbor’s yard to continue their work.
Mormon Helping Hand volunteers are available to help anyone who has been a victim of the recent tornado outbreak. They can remove drywall, insulation, flooring, carpeting, furniture and appliances from damaged homes, affix tarps to roofs and remove trees and other debris from lawns.
The effort is part of the church’s ongoing “Helping Hands” service to friends and neighbors. Volunteers clad in yellow T-shirts and vests work free of charge and provide the tools and equipment necessary to complete the work.
To help reach tornado victims, volunteers are going door to door in the affected areas, handing out fliers with contact information and available services listed. Fliers also are written in Spanish and there are Spanish speaking individuals available at Command Center to answer phones.
For cleanup assistance, call 794-5414 or send an email with your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.