The raging flames, fueled by high winds and no measurable moisture for months, did not discriminate in northwestern Oklahoma, consuming everything along the way.
Burning out of control for more than a week, the fires have destroyed farm equipment, barns and crops. Livestock have been killed when they could not outrun the flames. And for some, the place they called home is nothing but a pile of burned rubble.
About 25 Oklahoma 4-H families in Dewey and Woodward counties have lost their homes. In an effort to help them get started replacing everything they lost, the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation has set up a special wildfire recovery account.
Jim Rhodes, West District 4-H program specialist for Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension, said at this time, only monetary donations are being accepted.
“We’ve set up an account through the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation to help these families who have lost everything,” Rhodes said. “Very soon we’ll be meeting with members of the 4-H Foundation, as well as county educators and volunteer leaders to determine the best method for distributing all funds collected. 4-H is a big family and we’re going to do what we can to help lessen the financial burden for these families who have been affected,” Rhodes said.
Donations can be made online at https://oklahoma4hfoundation.com/donate/. Click on the Donate button and designate Wildfire Relief in the Scholarship Fund box. Donations also may be mailed to the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation, 205 4-H Youth Development Building, Stillwater, OK 74078. Please make checks payable to the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation and note NW Fire Relief on the memo line.
Mike Weber, 4-H Youth Development educator and county Extension director in Dewey County, has about 20 4-H families in his county alone have been affected by the fires.
“I’ve been out talking to some of these families and they’re just overwhelmed emotionally,” Weber said. “They’ve received some donations of clothing and other things, but monetary donations through the 4-H Foundation will be very helpful. Those donations mean a great deal to these families and they appreciate the support from people across the state and the fact people are thinking about them.”
Blayne Arthur, executive director of the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation, said 100 percent of all donations will go directly to the affected families.
“We’re here to help these families begin the rebuilding process in any way we can,” Arthur said. “Due to tremendous support from our generous donors, we’ve already raised more than $20,000 and encourage you to be part of this effort. The Foundation is glad to be a conduit to assist these 4-H families in their time of need.”
Terry Stowers, president of the 4-H Foundation Board, said he is proud to be part of this effort.
“Part of being an Oklahoman and a member of the 4-H family is doing what we can to help others in their time of need,” Stowers said. “I personally have committed resources to this relief fund and encourage others to do the same.”
Arthur said the 4-H Foundation will be accepting donations for about five weeks. Donations are tax deductible.
For more information about donating to the Wildfire Relief Fund, contact Arthur at 405-744-5390 or Jim Rhodes at 580-233-5295.
Story by Trisha Gedon