Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Oklahoma Connection by Michelle Libby

Sometimes one doesn’t have to be in the affected area to be affected by a tornado. Shelley and Chris Chappell recently moved to Gray from the area in Oklahoma devastated by a tornado in May. In under one hour, 38,000 people were displaced out of the 58,000 people in Moore, Oklahoma and damage totals more than $1.5 billion, according to Shelley.

“It’s a really sad situation,” she said.

In 2003, the Chappell’s lived in that area and helped rebuild when a tornado took virtually the same path through the town. They still own a house in Oklahoma City. Even though they now live in Maine, they still wanted to help their friends and family who live in Oklahoma.

Shelley created the foundation “Bears, Backpacks & Blessings” to collect and deliver donations for the children of Oklahoma who “desperately need all our help.”

“Within 90 minutes we were up and running and snowballing really fast,” Shelley said.
“We have family members, friends and deep roots of love and commitment to the State of Oklahoma,” Shelley said. “However, this is our home now,” she said. “It makes me proud to live here and help there.”

The goal of the foundation is to assemble and deliver 500 to 1,000 backpacks filled with new items for six- to 12-year-olds. She suggested stuffed animals, coloring books, sticker books, Leap Frog systems and games, $25 gift cards to Target, Staples and Walmart for clothing as well as hygiene supplies and other educational technology. She is hoping to raise $15,000 to buy bikes, electronics and necessities for the children in Moore.

They plan to deliver the filled backpacks on July 6. They have volunteers from Maine who will drive a snowmobile trailer filled with supplies to Moore. They are also receiving help from the American Legion in Windham. One hundred percent of all donations will be given to the children of Oklahoma affected by the May 2013 tornado.

Businesses are beginning to get involved with fundraising. UNO Chicago Grills in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire are fundraising until July 7, to support the “Bears, Backpacks & Blessings” mission. Customers need to have a ticket that says 20 percent of the meal is to be donated to “Bears, Backpacks & Blessings,” Shelley said. Bring the ticket found in The Windham Eagle June 14 edition with you. The nearest UNOs is next to the Maine Mall in South Portland. A woman from Connecticut shipped beanie babies to be given away. Paula Sparks is donating 500 hand-quilted pillowcases. MSAD 15 schools have agreed to help by putting boxes in each building to collect items.

West coast comedian Elijah Tindall is touring Oklahoma, Arkansas, Arizona and California with his Moore Laughs Comedy Benefit Tour, where all proceeds will go to “Bears, Backpacks & Blessings.”
“People have just called us from all over,” Shelley said.

Shelley intends to keep the foundation going even after the shipment is delivered. Her goal is to make this a State of Maine foundation that sends hope to children and even elderly people when there is tragedy and devastation in Maine first and then other areas affected by tornado devastation. Shelley feels that getting a backpack will help cheer people up and make them know that someone cares.

“We need more people in the State of Maine to get involved and get behind what we’re doing,” Shelley said.

To donate items or money, visit www.gofundme.com/Bears-Backpacks-Blessings. To date they have raised $1,700 toward the goal of $15,000. Gift cards can be dropped off at MSAD 15 offices and by contacting Shelley at shelleyisblessed@gmail.com.

“This shows the power of what one person can do,” she said. “We just had to do our part.”

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