MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Children have donated their own toys to help people flood victims staying at Grace Episcopal Church, said B.J. Charbonneau, the church's head of building and grounds.
"It's just been amazing," Charbonneau said, adding that church families have donated DVDs, food and all sorts of other items.
Grace Episcopal and Fort Gibson First Baptist Church have hosted Red Cross shelters for dozens uprooted by late May floods.
Church leaders say congregation members have stepped in to help.
"We actually had more people volunteering than we could actually field," said the Rev. Bob Wickizer, Grace rector. "They stepped up. They did the right thing, and it was definitely without hesitation."
Wickizer attributed the volunteer effort to good adult formational program.
"We don't see people as victims, and we're the great white folks that rescue them," he said. "Through our Sunday worship, we believe there is a spark of God in each person. Because of that, we are one people, one body. When we see others in need, we reach out and help them."
Wickizer said Charbonneau contacted the Red Cross, which toured the facility. He said the only thing the church needed to add were more smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
Cots fill classrooms, hallways and the fellowship hall. Flood relief supplies have filled offices and pantries.
Housing flood victims 24/7 has impacted church utilities, Wickizer said.
"We have 25 tons of air conditioning that we're running nonstop," he said. "That costs about $6 or $7 an hour just to run those. The additional cost to the church we're trying to defray."
Church member Josh Cotten said he's felt humbled helping at the shelter.
"Some of those folks have lost everything they had and really have been great about it," said. "They've been upbeat, under the circumstances."
He said shelter guests have helped unload trucks, helped clean.
"And you can tell they appreciate the help," he said.
The Fort Gibson First Baptist Church sheltered people until last Wednesday. Worship pastor Shawn Evans said the shelter filled its fellowship hall, six classrooms, kitchen and two showers.
He said many members helped the Saturday night floods hit Fort Gibson.
"There was an outpouring of people," Evans said. "It was like our whole congregation was there to set up cots to help the Red Cross get established."
He said that, as the water receded, members have helped clear or "mud out" homes. Evans recalled serving at another church, where 50 families lost their homes in a tornado.
"For me, I had a confirmation that I went through that experience so I could have a better handle on this experience," he said. "I have a sense of purpose and a peace knowing this is going to end eventually. This is going to all pass."
The churches also have welcomed outside help.
Wickizer said the church has received donations from Massachusetts, California, Washington, as well as Muskogee.
"It's really heartening to see that," he said.