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Lemont thrift store volunteers aid in Oklahoma tornado recovery

LEMONT – Two days after the tornadoes hit Oklahoma in May, Edna Bice came into the Second Chance Thrift Shoppe in Lemont with an idea to help the victims.

Since then, Bice and Vicki Tabor, who both volunteer at the store, have made two trips to Oklahoma to donate supplies, money and services.

"If everyone could see what I've seen, they would help," said Bice, who is a resident of Bridgeview and works at KA Steel Chemicals in Lemont.

Bice was compelled to aid the victims after seeing footage of the tornado damage.

"They have nothing, with families living in tents," Bice said. "They keep getting hit over and over."

When Bice offered to drive a truck of supplies to Oklahoma, Tabor, a resident of Hickory Hills, volunteered to go with her.

"Personally, I'm not able to give financially," she said. "But I had the time. I was available."

On the first trip, which took place during Memorial Day weekend, Bice and Tabor dropped off supplies at churches in Oklahoma City.

Staff at the thrift store pulled older merchandise to send and raised money to purchase supplies and pay for transportation and lodging.

In two days, the volunteers raised almost $1,000 from individuals and businesses in the community.

Tabor said the trip was so rewarding that they wanted to make another one. But this time, she and Bice conducted more research to determine a specific area that needed help.

In the process, they discovered SteelMan Estates, a mobile home park in Shawnee, Okla. Tabor said that of the 81 mobile homes that were in the park before the tornado, six remained inhabitable.

When Bice and Tabor left the weekend of July 12, they had a completely full truck of supplies and more than $1,300 in donations.

Once in Shawnee, they worked with God's Hand Up ministries and a motorcycle group called the Defenders Coalition of Independent Riders.

"They couldn't believe that we would just get in a truck and drive down there," Tabor said.

Bice and Tabor will not be making another trip to Oklahoma, but the thrift store will continue to collect money to support rebuilding efforts at SteelMan Estates.

"This is not something that's going away," Bice said. "I want to do more."

There is a collection jar at the thrift store, located at 44 Stephen St., and other businesses in Lemont have them as well. Bice also hopes to hold a fundraiser at CC's Grove Inn in Willlow Springs.

Though it is her first emergency aid experience, Bice said assisting victims after a natural disaster fits her go-getter personality.

"I just hope nothing happens anymore," she said. "But I could see myself helping out again."

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