This Monday, as we thank those who have given their lives for service, let us reflect on those that still do. Those men and women who, whether they are in branches of the military or not, are giving days, weeks and months of their lives to the recovery efforts in Oklahoma- this is a special MM Post focusing on that.
I’ve never been to Oklahoma. I can point out where it is on a map because Mrs. Sarkisian was an amazing teacher. In fact, if you went to Meadowbrook School and claim to not know where all the states are on a map and 97% of the state capitals, it’s your own inattentive fault. But, I digress… and I will continue for a moment…
My one connection to Oklahoma is my roommate from VA. I don’t talk much about living outside of our Nation’s Capitol because I wasn’t there for long. It was a blip on my life’s radar- about 4 months time 7 years ago. Sadly… I regret leaving and the reason I did wasn’t a good one at all, but while there, I made some amazing memories with a friend from college, and a stranger who took a chance on me. After posting a picture of myself (I had been turned down by lots of potential roomies because of my tattoos) and a short bio on Craigslist (pre-creepy CL times), Melissa emailed me. We met, agreed wine was amazing (and whiskey, too) and went from there. I moved into her townhouse in Alexandria, VA not soon after. Melissa is from Oklahoma. She is loving, fierce, independent and tenacious. I moved into the smaller bedroom on the heels of her ending relationship, subsequently leading to her ex-boyfriend’s departure. I loved being in a townhouse (not an apartment) and her hound, Maggie. Melissa didn’t mind that I sometimes stayed out late- even though she had an early job in DC. She invited me to go places with her because I was new in town. We often spent one evening a week watching Intervention and drinking wine, Maggie seated squarely between us. It was summer and hot- she laughed when my boyfriend and I borrowed the AC out of the kitchen where he was the sous chef… at 3am. Melissa is my connection to Oklahoma. Featured below (as well) is Mandy. She is Mel’s friend from OK. Out of all the people who treated me badly in DC, these ladies showed me southern hospitality and took me all over the city… even when I clearly stuck out quite a bit. Thank you to you both… and to Drew for making life bearable I will always consider you part of the home I keep so close in my heart.
So… back to the now. I usually jump to help those in need- giving the shirt off my back even if I can’t afford another for myself, and thankfully I have friends who do, too. I have, I’d like to brag, some of the most giving friends anyone could ever hope to have. Which brings me to Lynette, owner of Exalt Photography. She has taken a lot of photos for our family (maternity, fun with the girls, and pictures of Addie as a newborn, for fun, for Easter…) and usually tells me I already paid. I first met her when her daughter was getting married and I worked at a bridal shop- Lynette and Nadine were looking for simple, beautiful and inexpensive. I directed them to the $99 rack at the store, helped them pick a few and we found The One (everything looked good on Nadine!) at the right price. I firmly believe that the cost of your dress is not important- and neither is commission when you make so little (HA!). We parted ways at the register. When I met Lynette a year later, we knew each other… and then it clicked. We hugged like family separated for years… and we’ve stayed close.
With family located a few miles outside of the devastation, Lynette set to work immediately; posting on Facebook, texting and calling local business to get their help. The news picked up on it and the support (and some naysayers) poured in and Oklahoma Helping Hands was born.
Addie and I made trip after trip with donations, driving all over the state (Woonsocket, Cumberland, Bristol, Exeter, Coventry…) to bring things to the studio, located at 87 Toll Gate Road in Warwick. To be honest, we were tapped on gas money- but someone I picked up from gave me cash to help (!) and my Mom will soon see she donated gas via Mobil Speed Pass (thanks, Mom)… but that’s nothing to the amazing couple, Ed and Janice Collins from Warwick, who rented the truck to bring all the goods to Oklahoma. The trucking company that was originally approached for a donation was unable to help due to “other commitments”, thus leaving Oklahoma Helping Hands in a lurch… lots of donations and little way to get there. This couple reached into their pockets and paid for the truck. They will also be taking the time to go with the truck to help pay for the gas and deliver and organize the items to give to families in need. All donations are being received in conjunction with the help of Lynette’s cousin John Lombardi and his wife Melissa at Journey Church in Norman. In truth, this wasn’t what the organization expected to happen- there was a truck donation, and then there wasn’t. In appreciation, many people showed up to give gas money at the item drop off points, but Oklahoma Helping Hands has also started a fundraiser for the couple who rented the truck HERE.
Some people ask: why not just send money to the victims… truth is, some people don’t have money to send. For instance, myself and our family. There are things Addie could never use, including $300 worth of jumpers and swings that were handed down to us. I was saving them for another baby… but when will that be? There are children who have no place to sit, no place to stand, no place to play. They have no place. Now. With these items they have a piano seat, a swing that plays music (I included batteries), a play yard- they have a plce. A friend donated a NEW stroller, car seat and infant seat combination. There were formula samples that were just sitting in the house, shampoos taken from hotel visits, deodorant that was on sale but not the product we used. In total, I collected over $1,000 in just baby items- that doesn’t include the toiletries, kitchen goods, canned foods, water, clothes, toys and (new) bedding that I delivered. But I could not have raised that in cash. If you are a naysayer, I’m sorry you feel money is the almighty savior in times like these, but money is what buys all the things on the truck.
It is a Marvelous Monday because we are all here. Thank you for taking the time to read all of this special post and support such a wonderful part of our country. We are all down sometimes… it brings me much warmth, knowing there are always helping hands to comfort us.