Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

May 21, 2013

Jacksonville residents lead effort to provide supplies to Oklahoma tornado victims

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE —

Water. Food. Gloves. Baby wipes. Diapers. Clothing. Billy Bateman is putting out a call for donations of much-needed supplies to take to victims in tornado-stricken Moore, Okla.

The horrible disaster claimed at least 24 lives — seven of whom were children. Emergency crews sifted through that rubble this morning, and the number of the dead was expected to climb, the Associated Press reported.

Bateman, 53, of Jacksonville, is manager of Carey Lake Ranch. He learned about the devastation in Oklahoma on TV, while watching the Monday news with his wife.

“You start thinking how terrible all this is,” Bateman said. “You wonder, 'What can I do? What can I do?'”

Driven to action, Bateman borrowed some vehicles with his boss's permission. About 8 a.m. or so this morning, less than day after a massive tornado flattened homes and demolished an elementary school in the Oklahoma City suburb, Bateman set up a donation drop-off area in the parking lot of Walmart, 1311 S. Jackson St.

Peggy Renfro, president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, helped by distributing a press release urging residents to drive by and donate.

And so, residents stopped by in great numbers to donate supplies.

Donations ranged from food to diapers to water. One woman even volunteered Sharpie pens so people could communicate with one another more clearly in Oklahoma.

Among the Tuesday donors was Jacksonville Police Chaplain Donnie Hammock, who emerged from Walmart with a shopping cart crammed with items.

“I got ravioli, Capri Sun, paper towels and bottled water,” the chaplain said.

About the same time, area resident Pam Clark showed up with a vehicle also stuffed with goods. These were donated on behalf of herself and her 80-something mother Delores Bell.

“She can't get out of the house but she wanted to help,” Clark said.

Bateman was very appreciative.

“She's an angel,” he said of Clark.

Bateman intends to make the five or so hour drive to drop off the food himself. He said he probably will take his own route there that will thread through several East Texas towns — in case anyone is there who wishes to donate.

One of the roads Bateman said he will take is Highway 175. He also intends to circulate his planned travel map to the public — when he has time to complete it.

“If you're on our route, call me and I'll stop and pick the stuff up,” Bateman said. “For instance, if you're off 175 I can stop in Athens, or wherever.”

A quick-moving Bateman didn't have time to wait for corporate approval from Walmart before locating his relief effort in the store's parking lot. He asked one Walmart representative, who didn't have an immediate answer for him. So he plopped down there anyway, ready to move everything to another parking lot at a moment's notice if the corporate answer was “no.”

“I just did it crazy,” Bateman acknowledged with a sheepish smile.

As of 9 a.m. corporate Walmart didn't seem to have any objections.

In the parking lot Bateman had at his disposal a 40-foot trailer, and a couple of U-hauls donated by Bobby's Tires. As of 8:42 a.m. he had received 100 donated cases of water, two shopping cards full of diapers and one full of food.

Additionally, Bateman said he had been contacted by local banks, whose representatives said they would establish special funds to help the victims. Additionally, an area blood bank called and indicated representatives were going to be be on site in the Walmart parking lot to help collect donations for the victims, he said.

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