AARP Oklahoma on Friday visited communities in Pottawatomie County affected by the May 19 tornado and presented a $70,000 donation to United Way of Pottawatomie County.

AARP Oklahoma on Friday visited communities in Pottawatomie County affected by the May 19 tornado and presented a $70,000 donation to United Way of Pottawatomie County.

The donation, which is one of 11 grants AARP is awarding to local organizations providing long-term recovery help for tornado victims, will be used for transportation, storage, home repairs, housing, shelters and utility bills, officials with United Way of Pottawatomie County explained.

“Not long after the devastating May 19 tornado, AARP staff and volunteers spent a day helping with relief efforts in the Bethel Acres and Shawnee Lake areas,” said AARP Oklahoma State Director Sean Voskuhl. “We saw first-hand the magnitude of damage and devastation in Pottawatomie County. And, while much of the national media attention has focused on other areas, we want the people of Pottawatomie County to know AARP is committed to helping you and we continue to keep those affected in our thoughts and prayers.”

Audrey Seeliger, United Way of Pottawatomie County Director, said her organization will use money donated by AARP to provide assistance for tornado victims through local chapters of the Salvation Army (which also includes Carney and Wellston) and the American Red Cross.

“United Way of Pottawatomie County Disaster Relief Fund is honored to accept this generous grant from AARP,” Seeliger said. “The United Way of Pottawatomie County Disaster Relief Fund was created to allow for direct distribution to local disaster relief partner agencies providing assistance for immediate, intermediate and long term needs of individuals in our community. AARP and United Way share the passion for enhancing quality of life in our local communities and we value this partnership with AARP.”

Funding will help cover auto insurance deductibles or repairs to vehicles damaged by storms; storage units or U-Haul rentals for those with extensive home damage who need a location to secure remaining belongings; assistance with insurance deductibles for home repairs; housing deposits not covered by FEMA; repairs to shelters and assistance with utility bills.

Within hours of the May storms, AARP Foundation established an Oklahoma relief fund to support victims.

AARP and AARP Foundation matched dollar-for-dollar contributions up to $300,000 resulting in a total of $673,000 raised from more than 6,000 people, Voskuhl said. All organizations receiving grants have signed a letter of agreement and submitted a plan detailing how they will use funding to help storm victims. In addition, grantees have committed that 100 percent of the funds will be used for direct assistance in Oklahoma and no portion will be used for administrative costs. Each organization will send a final report to AARP detailing the full expenditure of its grant money.

AARP will continue to participate in long-term recovery committees in Pottawatomie and Oklahoma/Cleveland counties, Voskuhl said.

Earlier this week, AARP announced a grant to the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) which prepared thousands of hot meals for tornado victims in Pottawatomie County and provided debris removal.

The BGCO says it will use the grant to continue long-term recovery in communities affected by the tornadoes including local sites in Bethel Acres, Carney, Dale, Dewar, Little Axe, McLoud, Shawnee and Weleetka. Baptist Disaster Teams will provide debris cleanup including chain sawing removal of destroyed and broken trees, sifting, sorting and searching for personal family valuables among debris and debris removal.

The BGCO also will provide financial assistance for under-insured or non-insured homeowners 50-plus. Where possible widows, the physically challenged and special needs individuals will also be identified as appropriate recipients of assistance in storm recovery efforts.

“From our past experience in events like this, the recovery will take many months if not years,” said Sam Porter, BGCO Disaster Relief Director. “It has been an incredible journey to watch the hand of the Lord work through individuals, churches, and businesses to help the victims of the recent tornado devastation in Oklahoma. The grant from AARP will go a long way in helping families with members 50 years and older to reestablishing the normalcy of their lives.”