Oklahoma Tornado is No Match for Building Volunteers

Tornados can have devastating consequences. But the tornado that struck Bethel Acres, Oklahoma, in May 2013 was no match for the good deeds that followed. Just ask Maeghan Hadley.

Maeghan is founder and operator of 1 Day Ranch, an animal rescue, therapy and education center located near Bethel Acres. She had been running her organization, which is funded entirely by donations, for a mere three months when a mile-wide tornado struck the Central Oklahoma community. Thankfully, her property wasn’t at the epicenter of devastation. But the high winds mercilessly tore into the ranch’s old dairy barn being renovated for horse rescues.

“We were just a few months away from completion, and within seconds it was beyond repair,” explained Maeghan, who gave this phone interview while simultaneously bottle feeding an abandoned baby goat.

Serendipity Weighs In

Maeghan is also a first animal responder who helped during the aftermath of the 2013 storm. As such, she was invited to speak at a post-tornado panel discussion, which led to meeting Jeff Parness, director of New York Says Thank You Foundation (NYSTY), an organization started after 9/11 to help rebuild communities after disasters. Since then, NYSTY has grown into a national, hands-on platform for rebuilding and volunteer service. Each year on the 9/11 anniversary, NYSTY sends hundreds of volunteers from New York, along with disaster survivors from around the country, to a specific area or project that needs help. Maeghan’s 1 Day Ranch is the main project for 2014.

Lester Buildings Joins the Team

Jeff then called on Matt Johnson, a Lester Buildings dealer and operator of SL Construction in Archie, Missouri.  Since 2008, Lester has partnered with NYSTY, offering discounted building materials and volunteer design expertise. Matt heard Maeghan’s story and didn’t think twice.

“I wanted to continue our involvement, since my wife’s grandfather initially brought Lester Buildings into the program in 2008. It’s a great way to honor Bob’s enormous passion for the foundation.” Bob Lotspeich, founder of SL Construction, unexpectedly passed away in May 2013. With great enthusiasm, he had donated much time, energy and leadership to several of the Foundation’s building projects.

In early March, Matt made the five-hour drive to 1 Day Ranch to meet Jeff and Maeghan to draft a rough floor plan. “We asked Maeghan to think of everything she could dream of for the project. Jeff then raised the money, and I plugged details into Lester’s design software. It does a really nice job of providing complete proposal drawings and pricing.” When finished, 1 Day Ranch will have a 10-stall Lester horse barn with restrooms and community classroom, a side building with dog kennels, two run-in horse shelters, outdoor riding arena, and new fencing.

Barn Raising Set for September 2014

After months of Matt’s steady involvement – weekly conference calls, a lot of emails, an additional visit to set posts – the buildings will go up in September. Matt will make the trip again to thoroughly prepare the building site for the convergence of a few hundred volunteers, all ready to build, but with varying degrees of experience. This time, he’ll bring his family; he and his wife recently had their first child (a girl).

For Maeghan, seeing her dream come true is overwhelming – and thrilling. “This will be a massive improvement for our program and the community. It will give our animals a safe place to recover and boost our ability to provide equine therapy.” She hopes to have her staff complete equine therapy training next spring.

Another benefit? The upcoming new buildings reframe her view of winter.

“I’m actually looking forward to this winter. Last year, our pipes froze and we spent three to four hours a day hauling water from the house out to the pastures.” That’s no small feat, considering the number of feet, hooves, paws, etc. on her property (9 horses, 2 donkeys, 1 llama, 1 goat, 1 pig, and 11 dogs).

As for Matt and future projects with The New York Says Thank You Foundation, he’s committed. “By the time this project with 1 Day Ranch is completed, I’ll have donated around 100 hours of time. But the improvement we’re providing is worth it.”  


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