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Oklahoma Woman Working To Save Christmas For Tornado Victims

Filed by Nikole Robinson Carroll in Feature.
December 16, 2013
 

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After any major disaster, people need food, clothing, housing and furniture. But when you’ve lost everything you own, there are likely many less-essential items farther down your list. Nearly seven months after the Moore tornado, Kate Carlton has this story of one woman’s effort to fill a less obvious need in time for the holiday season.

On a recent Wednesday evening, stay-at-home mom and Facebook boutique owner Kim Rollins opened her home to strangers. Rollins makes handcrafted children’s items, which she sells on the Internet, but instead of sewing and gluing on this evening, she walked a mother and daughter through her kitchen, pointing out ornaments covering her table and countertops.
People fill her house nightly to browse through the donated Christmas decorations, which she’s offering to them for free. Rollins started this ornament drive three weeks ago after she realized how the tornado had affected her Christmas traditions.

“We lost a lot of our ornaments,” Rollins says.  ”And I’m seeing on Facebook all these people posting pictures of their awesome trees, and it just kind of was depressing.”

So Rollins took to her boutique’s Facebook page and posed a question. She wanted to know if people would be willing to donate ornaments for survivors of the May 20th tornado who no longer had Christmas decorations.

“I had hundreds of emails, like, hundreds of people respond,” Rollins says.  ”I was pretty shocked. I just kind of thought a few people would get some ornaments, and so I didn’t expect all this.”

“All this” is the hundreds of ornaments that came pouring in. And they weren’t just from Oklahoma. She’s received boxes from Florida, New York, Washington and even Las Vegas. So far, Rollins has helped more than 40 tornado survivors decorate their trees.

One shopper, Amber Harris, says ornaments are so important during Christmas because of what they represent.

“It’s a traditional thing,” Harris says.  ”You have your special ornaments that your kids have made. You have ornaments from family, friends. I mean, just as you were growing up, you might have special ornaments from your parents that they gave you when you got your own house. They’re sentimental things.”

Harris says losing all of that is hard for anyone, but it’s especially difficult when the loss is combined with total devastation that comes with a tornado. She says being able to pick out new ornaments that people across the country have donated helps though.

Harris adds, “It’s special because it came from somebody that had a purpose. That purpose to make you feel like you’re special again.”

The ornaments are shipped to Emmaus Baptist Church in south Oklahoma City, where Rollins is a parishioner.

The church’s Associate Pastor Jim Lehew says he’s impressed by both Kim’s efforts, and the community’s efforts as a whole.

Lehew says, “It’s little things like that that I see people really stepping up and helping to find a niche and meet needs that families have. As different seasons approach, you realize what you don’t have, so there are people that are meeting those needs.”

Rollins sees this too.  She says, “People want to be giving. But they just don’t know what to do with it. So whenever someone asks for something specific and small, it’s just, ‘Yeah, we can definitely get ornaments.’ I think that was the key here. I just asked for something small and something meaningful and unique.”

Rollins is not only adorning Christmas trees across Moore. She’s also helping to fill other needs families have, including connecting homeowners with licensed contractors and finding groups to sponsor tornado survivors who don’t have presents for Christmas.

 

Funding for the Oklahoma Tornado Project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 

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