Over the past weeks, I’ve received hundreds of images from Moore, Oklahoma – photos of rubble where homes once stood. In the wake of one of the most destructive tornadoes in history, I’ve seen many of these homes flying KCCO flags from protruding rebar and splintered outcroppings. When I first reached out to the victims of the tornadoes that night, I knew the situation was dire. Only time would show us the shocking extent of the destruction and suffering.
I’ve heard so many stories of loss it’s left my head spinning. I’m in awe of those who have faced such sudden tragedy and, with white-knuckled bravery, wake up each morning determined to rebuild their lives. I’ve asked the victims what we can do: You need a new house? …we can do the shit out of that. “Not yet,” they say.
The victims and volunteers are both pragmatic and selfless in their approach. They’ve reminded me that, in times like this, basic necessities are needed most. Food, water, shelter. Their neighbors are hurting too, they tell me. The land must be cleared before it can be rebuilt. Many Chivers have answered that call to bring the basics to Moore. One such man is Moore native Seth Ringley.
Every weekend, Seth Ringley and his best friends Blake Giles (the beard) and Albert Garcia, from Triple G Smokers, pack as much food into their trailers as they can. The boys make the drive from North Texas to Moore, Oklahoma. Once there, Seth and Co. set up a mobile catering center to feed victims, volunteers, and soldiers.
You wouldn’t believe how much good food is needed and appreciated in Moore.
This past weekend Seth brought nearly 400 lbs. of meat to the disaster zone. I spoke with Seth last thursday right before his next trip. He told me: “Here’s the thing, my contact in the area told me that as the weeks go by, more volunteers and food trucks are leaving the area. The need to bring quality food to the area is actually increasing. We’re seeing demolished homes with KCCO on them so we had an idea to send a signal to everybody. Last week I set up our station on a concrete pad where a house used to be and raised the KCCO flag on a 16 foot pole. There are tons of Chivers here. Everybody knows they can find a warm meal here.”
Are funds running short, I asked?
“I’ll be honest. I could use a little help now. I’ve raised about $7,000 of the $25,000 goal thanks to the news coverage we’ve gotten. But we’re stretched and I don’t want to stop making these trips until the end of June, maybe longer.”
That was the last time I heard from Seth for a few days. I left town for the Boston Meetup and promised to speak with Seth again soon. By the time I reconnected with Seth on Sunday, another battery of deadly tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma City and El Reno, killing 16 and wounding many more. Some residents of Moore took another hit, if that’s even imaginable. The horrors continue in Oklahoma.
When I spoke to Seth on Monday evening, he had just returned home. He was exhausted.
How are you, Seth? How have the new twisters affected the area?
“Lots of flooding there now. There was a point on Saturday we served food nonstop for 4 hours and there was still a huge line. Most of the food here is pre-packaged. These people need protein. They need a warm meal. Word spreads about us quickly once we set up.”
Here’s how it works: The Red Cross alerts Seth to the largest pockets of people as they pop up and Seth’s mobile crew make their way to the area. There are a lot of church groups in the area doing an amazing job, too. Seth told me about a church group of 750 people there who weren’t prepared for the scarcity of food. The Red Cross called Seth and he responded. Often times, Seth will set up in 3-4 different areas throughout the day depending on the need.
Seth told me how they decided to bring toothbrushes and teddy bears on the last trip: “I brought 25 teddy bears. They went the fastest. Man, I even had a little kid tug on my sleeve. I looked down. I was sure he would ask for a teddy bear and this little munchkin says, ‘Excuse me, sir, do you have a toothbrush?’ I just lost it.”
The storms have taken a tremendous physical and emotional toll. Many residents in the area are determined to stay and we’ve been asked to help do something so very simple: bring quality food to Moore. We’ve got our guys on the ground and they can help as much as we can enable them.
If you have a roof over your head and one dollar to spare, you can help bring some comfort food to those who need it most.
Many weary Oklahomans have stood out in front of the remains of their homes, a now unfamiliar landscape, and calmly reached down to lace up their shoes, tight. We got the message.
Early this morning Seth picked up an additional flat bed trailer food as well a truck load of toys and baby clothes. Seth mentioned he met a bunch of Chivers at the unofficial Denver meet up who have texted offering help. He is willing to take as many extra hands as he can on this weekend’s trip. You can email Seth directly at sethdringley [at] gmail [dot] com.
From the unprecedented 1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak to the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, the residents of Oklahoma have proven to be some of the most resilient people in our country. With the most recent tragedy, their resiliency is being tested to its limits. Many Oklahomans are calling it ‘Oklahoma Strong.’ Maj. Thomas Louden, Commander for the Salvation Army, said it best:
“The phrase ‘Oklahoma Strong’ is more than just words, it is something that is shown,” Louden said. “We will see the strength of this state, particularly the community, for what we can be as a people.”
We have a community here too. And from the Aurora shootings to the Boston Bombings, theCHIVERS have always risen to meet the gravity of the moment. Seth needs to raise about $25,000 to be affective through June. Seth reminded me the rebuilding effort will take many, many, months. Depending on the money raised, he will return indefinitely to bring food to hungry volunteers. Seth’s resolve is just that strong.
Seth has set up a GoFundMe Page with a $25,000 goal and I don’t need to tell you what to do with it. It’s time for the Chivers to weigh in on Oklahoma, and weigh in with vigor.
Donate RIGHT HERE.
I’ll bring you updates as they arrive.
UPDATE: We’ve already hit $12,000 in the first few minutes!
UPDATE #2: $16,000!
UPDATE #3: $20,000. The home stretch!
UPDATE #4: $25,000!!! We hit the goal in less than 2 hours. So amazing!
UPDATE #5: $32,000 and still on the rise!