Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

May 24, 2013

Local effort to help Oklahoma tornado victims continues

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Billy Bateman remained hard at work in the Walmart parking lot this week, continuing his efforts to accumulate supplies for Oklahoma tornado victims and dispatching good Samaritans to ferry them to the beleaguered state.

The 53-year-old was originally going to drive supplies there himself, but said Wednesday he realized there were several volunteers on hand who could do it instead. Plus, his organizing efforts were needed on the home front.

In many ways, what the victims of the tornado strike in Moore, Okla., suffered through was inconceivable.  

The tornado was an EF5 – the highest ranking on the scale.

More than a mile across, it carved a swath of destruction nearly 17 miles long and left at least 24 dead, the Associated Press reported.

Jacksonville resident Lois Hutson was one of those who drove supplies to Oklahoma Wednesday. She described the horrific devastation that she witnessed at length on her Facebook page, quoted with her permission.

“It was not any thing like I've ever seen in my life,” Hutson wrote. “People's lives turned upside down in a matter of minutes to become just rubble. A bulldozer was just pushing up the piles, people's homes. It was like there were no memories there – just a pile of trash where once a child ran through and had laughter, love and the knowledge that they had a safe place.”

In Jacksonville Wed-nesday, volunteers continued their fundraising work. They had mustered over 3,000 cases of water to send to Oklahoma.

Bateman said Wednesday that members of a local Baptist church volunteered to take two 26-foot U-Hauls donated by Bobby's Tires stuffed with supplies to Okla-homa.

Another volunteer drove a 48-foot trailer filled with 20 pallets of water and four pallets of cat and dog food.

While donations of supplies helps, donations of cash or checks didn't hurt either because they can buy more supplies, he said.

“Yesterday we had $1,700 in cash and last night at 3 a.m. we bought $1,700 worth of water,” Bateman said Wednesday.

Bateman said he intends to keep accumulating donations and dispatching volunteer drivers in vehicles to distribute them until they aren't needed any more.

The progress of the supplies drive was monitored and reported extensively on Facebook by local residents such as Hutson and Rob Gowin.

In one posted FB photo dated Wednesday, Hutson displayed  a photo of an 18-wheel tractor trailer.

“This is what Jacksonville has filled up to send to Moore Okla. along with three 26-foot U-Hauls and a 14-foot trailer – in less than 24 hours,” her post read. “Great job, everyone! And thank you!”

Bateman, manager of Carey Lake Ranch, first learned about the devastation in Oklahoma watching the news on TV.

He's been on the scene with the collection efforts at Walmart since 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Bateman can be reached on cell phone by calling 903-284-1710.