By Jason Bramwell
A team of thirty-six employees from three Oklahoma offices of national accounting and advisory firm BKD LLP volunteered last week to clean up residences in Moore, Oklahoma, that were destroyed by an EF-5 tornado May 20.
The Oklahoma Society of CPAs (OSCPA) is also in the process of mobilizing efforts with members and community leaders to help victims of the Moore tornado.
On May 31, the team of BKD employees worked with Serve Moore to assist with the cleanup effort. Serve Moore is a collaborative group of churches and organizations that is leading volunteer initiatives to help Moore residents. The May 20 tornado killed twenty-three people and left thousands of others homeless.
Todd Lisle, managing partner of the Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Enid BKD offices, told AccountingWEB the employees spent the first couple of hours the morning of May 31 completing volunteer release forms and finalizing work orders to determine what assistance was needed.
"In order to have volunteers work on the various houses and finish the work that needed to be done, release forms had to be completed for liability reasons and work orders put in the queue", he said. "Serve Moore then prioritized the work orders and assigned groups to work on those houses."
The volunteers spent the late morning and afternoon working at two homes, combing through the debris and identifying potential valuables for the homeowners.
"It was a very slow process to go through those two homes and filter through all the debris", Lisle said.
Debris was placed on the curb so it could be hauled away. Sentimental possessions, such as photographs and other family mementos, were given to the homeowners if they were present at the site. If not, the valuables were placed in a central location for victims of the storm to look through and gather, he added.
"What impacted me the most was interacting with some of the people", Lisle said. "Some were in a daze. They were still in shock. Others seemed to be doing fine and were processing what had happened."
Lisle described the area as looking like a "war zone" and added that most of the homes he saw were either completely or largely destroyed.
"Debris was everywhere", he said. "Two-by-fours and insulation were in trees. A lot of homes were completely knocked down to their foundations. Others had maybe one wall partially standing."
The BKD volunteers had already finished work for the day before a new round of deadly storms raced near the Moore area that evening. The storms spawned several tornadoes that killed thirteen people in Oklahoma City and its surrounding suburbs.
"Serve Moore was pretty diligent about getting folks out of there when the severe weather started to threaten", Lisle said.
While BKD hasn't planned a second collective cleanup effort, Lisle said individual employees will likely continue to help out when they can.
"Everybody was glad to have the opportunity to help in a collective manner. I think it was something that was very well-received by our team", he said.
The BKD Foundation, the firm's charitable arm, is looking at other ways to assist the disaster relief effort. Through local advisory boards in each of BKD's markets, the foundation decides how to allocate charitable contributions. The Oklahoma City board will be working with local organizations to determine how to maximize the impact of foundation dollars.
OSCPA Planning Ways to Help
The OSCPA is expected to house an American Red Cross microsite for members to donate money for tornado victims, Amy Welch, OSCPA director of communications, told AccountingWEB.
The society is working with the office of Oklahoma Congressman James Lankford to set up free post-crisis financial counseling for tornado victims, she stated. Dates have yet to be determined.
Welch said the OSCPA has also been invited to participate in community meetings on disaster relief that are being hosted by First American Bank in Norman, Oklahoma. The meetings, which will be held June 3 to June 6, will provide individuals, families, and businesses in or near the Moore area with information on available financial services and resources. Presenters are expected to include officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), US Small Business Administration, American Red Cross, City of Moore, and Moore Chamber of Commerce.
In addition, the OSCPA provides several resources on disasters and financial planning on its website.