Relief centers continue to help fire victims with recovery

CREEK COUNTY, Okla. - As Creek County residents continue to recover from last weekend's devastating wildfires, their neighbors are still standing beside them.

Relief centers continue to operate across the county, mostly in churches.

One of the biggest relief centers is at the First Baptist Church in Olive.

The church's pastor, Jeff Laughlin, said it started when he offered the building as a shelter for a family whose home was being threatened by a fire.

"As the fires continued to progress, we had another church who burned. They had been collecting items and they asked if they could bring their items to our building," said Laughlin.

That's when donations started pouring in to First Baptist.

Within days, there was enough donations to fill six rooms.

"As far as the community goes, it really hasn't surprised us too much. What has really surprised us though  is the people from outside the community that have pitched in and helped," said Laughlin.

Donations at the church include clothes, non-pershible food, pet food, bottled water and equipment to help with debris removal.

Laughlin said they need more water hoses, garden rakes, and extension cords.

In addition to the donations, the church also provides daily lunch (11a.m. to 1 p.m.) and dinner (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.) for fire victims.

Laughlin said the relief center would not be possible without its volunteers.

"It's just been really amazing to see how people come together to help people in need," said Laughlin.

Of course, fire victims are also getting help from the American Red Cross' Multi-Agency Resource Center in Mannford.

Victims can talk with caseworkers, health professionals and even find volunteers to help them with debris removal.

Site manager, Jaison Scott, said Saturday was particularly busy.

"This has been the first weekend since the fire that everybody has been able to get back in. All the people that are working, they're finally able to get back in here [to] receive assistance," said Scott.

The Red Cross' Mannford shelter will close on Sunday afternoon, however the resource center will remain open at the First United Methodist Church, which is located at 100 E. Greenwood Avenue.

Scott said it looks like 209 homes were destroyed or damaged in Creek County, however final numbers are not in.

More than 300 homes were damaged or destroyed statewide.

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