June 10, 2013

Church spearheads collection efforts for victims of recent tornadoes

Bedtime Backpacks for Oklahoma

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The devastation following a tornado is nothing new to Laurel County, having recovered from its own disaster just over 15 months ago. The assistance and support that poured in to victims following the storm inspired a local church to contribute to other victims.

J.D. Rogers, with Freedom Christian Fellowship, coordinated an effort for victims of the three recent tornados that hit outside Oklahoma City two weeks ago. Rogers said having experienced the trauma from the March 2, 2012 tornado in the East Bernstadt area inspired him and other church members to help others going through the same experience.

Freedom Christian Fellowship was one of several churches who served victims who lost their homes during last year’s tornado aftermath.

“We served meals and people came here to shower,” Rogers said. “We saw what they were going through and want to be ready to help other people when disaster hits.”

Rogers said the collection effort for the Oklahoma victims began immediately after a tornado hit in Moore, Okla., on May 20. Moore is located just south of Oklahoma City. That was the second storm to strike the area, with intense thunderstorms and wind damage two days earlier. Another tornado damaged El Reno, approximately 25 miles west of Oklahoma City, on May 31, leaving at least 18 people dead. That EF-5 tornado was the largest width in recorded history, at over 2.6 miles wide and leaving over 16 miles of demolition and devastation behind it.

The relief effort for those victims involved a variety of organizations and businesses, Rogers said, all of whom were more than happy to help others in need. Thus, the Bedtime Backpack began, with a list of needed items that included underwear, pajamas, toothbrush and toothpaste, hair brush, stuffed animal or toy, and a small book. Those items were designated for children ages 3 to 12, with backpacks for younger children to include diapers or disposable undergarments used in potting training.

Teen totes included deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, cards or games, lip gloss, razors, shaving cream, and other sanitary items.

The two-week effort resulted in over 530 backpacks being collected, as well as other donations from the local community.

“We’re going in a 16-foot box truck that was donated to us to use, and Carmichael and (Freedom Christian Fellowship) gave us $1,000 each for the trip,” Rogers said.

Rogers said the huge amount of donations for the Oklahoma recovery effort was just another phase of helping others. When Laurel County received massive donations from all around the country, Rogers said the message was brought home even harder. Freedom Christian Fellowship has taken donations to tornado victims in Alabama following the storms in 2011, assisted with local victims after the March 2, 2012 disaster, and is now contributing to the recovery efforts in Oklahoma.

“We want to keep this going,” Rogers said. “We want to store items here at the church and be ready for the next one (tornado). There will always be disasters and somebody’s got to help, so we want to be prepared.”

Rogers feels that helping others, especially those experiencing devastation from natural disasters, is just “part of the ministry” of the churches and the communities.

“We don’t really know what it’s like until it hits home,” he said. “After last year, we know what it’s like. We want to help others and we welcome the donations from anyone who wants to help.”

Anyone interested can contact Rogers at (606) 224-7755 or by e-mail at