Bethel Acres couple getting first Habitat for Humanity home due to storms in May.

A Bethel Acres couple, Joel and Bettie Spears, will be the first recipients of a Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity home in the aftermath of the May tornadoes. The couple watched as the frame of their new home went up thanks to Crossings Community Church, which has a big role in making the project happen.

The Spears had sought shelter with neighbors on May 19 when an EF4 tornado smashed through their home. Their lender-placed insurance policy only paid off the mortgage. As both Joel and Bettie are disabled — he was injured in an industrial accident, she has lost most of her hearing — they were unable to rebuild on their own.

The longtime Bethel Acres residents contacted Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry that provides affordable housing for hardworking families with limited income.

“Contacting Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity was the best thing we ever did. They gave us hope again,” said Bettie, a former nurse. “They were kind and understanding.”

The result will be a 1,300-square-foot home that will be dedicated to the Spears in November. Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City is fully funding the house and providing the manpower of church volunteers for its entire “blitz” build.

With homebuilding also currently underway in Moore and Carney, Central Oklahoma Habitat is poised to construct as many as 400 homes over the next three to five years for families displaced by May’s tornadoes.

Ann Felton Gilliland, president and CEO of Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity, urges tornado-impacted families to fill out applications to determine eligibility. She noted that many uninsured or underinsured people might not realize they fit the criteria for Habitat assistance.

“We are committed to helping restore normalcy for families getting their lives back together in the wake of the tornadoes,” Gilliland said. “Central Oklahoma Habitat stands ready to help. And the process has never been faster or easier for those impacted by tornadoes.”

The application process has been expedited for such families. While people who receive a Habitat home typically must contribute 300 hours of “sweat equity” to the project, that figure is only 50 hours for those affected by a tornado. It takes less than a week for a family to see whether they qualify for a rebuild.

Habitat allows eligible families to purchase homes at cost and with zero-percent interest.

For the Spears, who once teamed together professionally driving an 18-wheeler, the new home is an opportunity to get back on a road to recovery. They look forward to showing it to their four children and 11 grandchildren.

“Central Oklahoma Habitat has been a blessing,” said Bettie Spears. “We thank the Lord for all their help everyday.”

To check eligibility, call Central Oklahoma Habitat at (405) 232-4828 or apply online at