After any major disaster, people need food, clothing, housing and furniture. But when you’ve lost everything you own, there are likely many more, less essential items, farther down your list. Nearly seven months after the Moore tornado, city resident Kim Rollins seeks to fill one of those needs in time for the holiday season.
On a recent Wednesday evening, stay-at-home mom and Facebook boutique owner Kim Rollins opened her home to strangers. Rollins makes handcrafted children’s items, which she sells on the Internet, but instead of sewing and gluing on this evening, she walked a mother and daughter through her kitchen, pointing out ornaments covering her table and countertops.
“There are some homemade ones,” Rollins says. “And then there’s this one that has a cross and a frame that says ‘Bless this family 2013.’”
People fill her house nightly to browse through the donated Christmas decorations, which she’s offering to them for free. Rollins started this ornament drive three weeks ago after she realized how the tornado had affected her Christmas traditions.
“We lost a lot of our ornaments,” she said. “I’m seeing on Facebook all these people posting pictures of their awesome trees, and it just kind of was depressing.”
So Rollins took to her boutique’s Facebook page and posed a question. She wanted to know if people would be willing to donate ornaments for survivors of the May 20 tornado who no longer had Christmas decorations.
“I had hundreds of emails, like hundreds of people responded,” Rollins said.
“I was pretty shocked. I just kind of thought a few people would get some ornaments, and so I didn’t expect all this.”
All this is the hundreds of ornaments that came pouring in. And they weren’t just from Oklahoma. She’s received boxes from Florida, New York, Washington and even Las Vegas. So far, Rollins has helped more than 40 tornado survivors decorate their trees.
One shopper, Amber Harris, says ornaments are so important during Christmas because of what they represent.
“It’s a traditional thing,” Harris said. “You have your special ornaments that your kids have made. You have ornaments from family, friends. I mean, just as you were growing up, you might have special ornaments from your parents that they gave you when you got your own house. They’re sentimental things,” she said.
Harris says losing all of that is hard for anyone, but it’s especially difficult when the loss is combined with total devastation that comes with a tornado. She says being able to pick out new ornaments that people across the country have donated helps though.
“It’s special because it came from somebody that had a purpose. That purpose to make you feel like you’re special again,” Harris said.
The ornaments are shipped to Emmaus Baptist Church in south Oklahoma City, where Rollins is a parishioner. The church’s Associate Pastor Jim Lehew says he’s impressed by both Kim’s efforts, and the community’s efforts as a whole.
“It’s little things like that that I see people really stepping up and helping to find a niche and meet needs that families have,” Lehew said. “As different seasons approach, you realize what you don’t have, so there are people that are meeting those needs.”
Kim Rollins sees this too.
“People want to be giving,” she said. “But they just don’t know what to do with it. So whenever someone asks for something specific and small, it’s just, ‘Yeah, we can definitely get ornaments.’
“I think that was the key here. I just asked for something small and something meaningful and unique,” Rollins said.
And Rollins is not only adorning Christmas trees across Moore. She’s also helping to fill other needs families have, including connecting homeowners with licensed contractors and finding groups to sponsor tornado survivors who don’t have presents for Christmas.