CLS Annual Faculty Meeting and Awards
August 6, 2013
CLS and the current job market banner
CLS and the Current Job Market
August 28, 2013

Service Strengthens State Spirit In the Wake of Spring Storms

Banner image of damage after spring storm in May 2013

May 20, 2013, was a day that will be forever etched in the minds of Oklahomans. Only ten miles north of the University of Oklahoma Norman campus, an EF5 tornado tore through the cities of Newcastle and Moore. Within hours, more than a thousand homes were destroyed and more than $1 billion of damage had been done.

Oklahoma was shaken but stood strong, and Oklahomans did what they do best and began to reach out and help their neighbors. Several staff members within the College of Liberal Studies were immediately spurred to action and made a big impact within those first days of chaos.

Jennifer Gatlin, undergraduate academic advisor for CLS, expresses how many people felt in the aftermath of the storms: “I think that everyone wanted to contribute in a meaningful way, but there was almost a feeling of helplessness. So many people needed literally everything, and giving money to large organizational efforts felt like it helped some, but it didn’t feel like it was enough.”

However, Gatlin’s husband is a police officer and served as a first responder. He was able to share with her directly what some of the needs were for the search and rescue efforts.

Throughout Norman, central Oklahoma, and the entire country, the victims of the tornadoes received an outpouring of support and in the wake of the storms.

The Morning After

After arriving at work the next morning, Gatlin sent an email to some colleagues listing the items the first responders needed.

“By 5 p.m. that same day, with the collaboration of CLS, Advanced Programs and the rest of the College of Continuing Education community, we collected an amazing amount of items for the guys. We collected more than $500 to go toward purchasing supplies, which included shovels, gloves, five-gallon buckets, ponchos, flashlights and spotlights, drinks/snacks, and more. My husband, David, was absolutely floored when he saw what I brought home. We had to get creative to fit everything into his state vehicle to take to the scene that night! David and his fellow police officers expressed their deepest thanks for our contributions – it really lifted morale that night (and the many that followed) to have what they needed on-hand to do their jobs.”

Kacee Butcher, also an academic advisor for CLS, felt a special call to serve those impacted by the storms. Her husband is manager of operations for OU Housing and Food Services, so she volunteered her time to help those affected by the storm that were relocated to OU’s Norman campus. She was able to help get people checked in, provide a hot meal, and move their belongings into the rooms.

At a time when many feared the spirit of Oklahoma would be broken, it only grew stronger. The spirit of gratitude, volunteerism, and giving is a deep part of the Oklahoma character that the University of Oklahoma Outreach and the College of Liberal Studies are proud to reflect.

Throughout Norman, central Oklahoma, and the entire country, the victims of the tornadoes received an outpouring of support and in the wake of the storms. President Boren established the Help OUr Neighbor Fund to benefit OU families that were impacted. Donations to this fund go directly to those students or employees whose homes were lost.

Picking Up the Pieces

The Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium played host to a massive benefit concert, spearheaded by Moore native Toby Keith along with fellow Oklahomans, including Garth Brooks and Carrie Underwood (via satellite). Attendance at the concert was more than 60,000, and all donations went to the United Way of Central Oklahoma May Tornadoes Relief Fund. To date, the United Way of Central Oklahoma has received more than $13 million in donations and pledges specifically for storm relief. So far, the United Way of Central Oklahoma has used this money to provide mental health and trauma counseling for those affected by the storms, training for first responders, and many immediate needs of victims.

On a national level, the Red Cross has received more than $28 million in pledges and donations to assist the storm relief. Because of those donations, many immediate needs were able to be met, including 460,000 meals, 400,000 supplies and relief items, and 6,300 nights in shelters for the displaced. The funds raised will continue to support the long-term recovery of the region.

At a time when many feared the spirit of Oklahoma would be broken, it only grew stronger. The spirit of gratitude, volunteerism, and giving is a deep part of the Oklahoma character that the University of Oklahoma Outreach and the College of Liberal Studies are proud to reflect.

Ann White
Ann White is the web marketing coordinator for OU Outreach’s Continuing Education Academic Programs. She has worked in marketing in higher education for six years, focusing on social media and web initiatives.

Leave a Reply