By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — For Cleveland County residents who lost everything in the May tornadoes, recent weeks have been a process of piecing lives back together. For Pauline Best, a Bakersfield, Calif., resident, making something whole out of pieces is an art form.
The 80-year-old Best is a quilter, and her heart went out to Oklahoma tornado victims. Many folks in Bakersfield have Oklahoma connections because they migrated to California during the Oklahoma Dust Bowl era. It didn’t take long for Best to find out that one of her volunteer quilters, Sue Hankins, has a nephew who’s a Cleveland County commissioner.
Commissioner Rusty Sullivan said Best and her quilting buddies sent 100 handmade quilts his way to be distributed to tornado victims. Sullivan formally accepted the quilts Monday at the county commissioners meeting.
Best has made quilts for victims of Hurricane Katrina and of the Joplin, Mo., tornado. She said these quilts are not heirloom quality, but they will warm people against the cold.
Cleveland County Emergency Management Director George Mauldin will facilitate distribution of the quilts.
Mauldin serves on the Eastern Cleveland County Long-term Recovery Committee comprised of nonprofits like Red Cross, United Way and church organizations who work with disaster victims over the long haul. The committee is preparing housewarming boxes for tornado victims. The quilts will be included in those boxes.
“We will utilize the committee to distribute these gifts,” Mauldin said.
The committee has been gearing up to take over as government money runs out. Insurance and FEMA funding are providing assistance now, but when those monies are spent, the nonprofits will step in to help cover any gaps.
“There’s a lot of money designated for this recovery,” Mauldin said.
The committee will match victims with the appropriate agency based on the help needed.
“We have to get the word out that this exists,” Mauldin said.
A meeting Saturday at the Little Axe High School gym is part of the effort to connect with residents affected by the tornado. The Eastern Cleveland County Community meeting will be from noon to 3 p.m. FEMA will be there, as will the insurance commissioner and other agencies. People will be able to register with FEMA, if they haven’t already.
For assistance or information on tornado relief, Mauldin said victims can call the Case Management Hotline at 866-477-7276.
In other county news, the sheriff’s office will use a grant donation of $1,500 from OEC Foundation Inc. to purchase an AED defibrillator.
Undersheriff Rhett Burnett said the goal is eventually to have them for every patrol vehicle. Oftentimes deputies in the field arrive before medical responders and the equipment can be life-saving. At present, only a few trained officers have the devices.
The commissioners also approved an agreement between the sheriff’s office and Norman Public Schools to provide GED training and testing at the jail.
Burnett said NPS has a grant to teach the class.
“It’s no cost to us,” Burnett said. “We’re really thankful to Norman Public Schools.”
The program is voluntary for prisoners.
Rain continues to delay road work, but county commissioners said crews are getting it done.
“In the fall, as we lose the temperature and the ground temperature goes down, we can’t do the road projects,” Sullivan said.
Commissioner Darry Stacy said projects are prioritized so the most important work will get done.
The ground temperature needs to be above 55 degrees for chip and seal projects, Sullivan said.