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HELENA — Dana Ticknor and her family want to deliver a little love in the form of a large care package from Montanans to Oklahomans harmed by last week’s tornados.

They hope to leave Helena on Friday, towing a 14-foot covered trailer filled with donated items ranging from diapers for displaced infants to gloves and snacks for volunteers helping to restore order among the havoc wreaked by tornadoes that tore through Shawnee and Moore. Twenty-four people were killed.

“We’re going down there to volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse again, and figured we would pull a trailer. We thought that if there were people who would like to help people out down there but don’t know what to do, we’d make it a little easier for them to reach out and help them,” Ticknor said. “We’d like this to be a community thing for Helena and let Oklahoma know we are thinking of them, praying for them, and sending a little love to them.”

This isn’t the first time the Ticknor family — that’s Mom and Dad, plus their 12 children — have piled into their van and RV to travel to disaster sites. They’ve also helped out by volunteering with Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief units after tornados in Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama in the past few years.

Samaritan’s Purse is an international ministry group formed in 1970 to meet emergency needs in crisis areas through existing evangelical mission agencies and national churches. Initially, its members clean up debris, salvage personal belongings, cut up and remove downed trees and put tarps over damaged roofs. They also repair or rebuild homes.

“When a storm devastates a community, one of the most important ways Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers help is finding and salvaging the personal belongings of victims who have already lost so much,” said Brent Graybeal, program manager for the response in Moore. “A homeowner is grateful when you patch a hole in his or her roof, but it’s usually nothing in comparison to finding a grandmother’s wedding ring or an irreplaceable family photo album. We know that by helping people pick up these pieces it provides comfort and a sense of hope for the long road ahead of them.

“It’s allowing the homeowners to start rebuilding their lives both physically and spiritually.”

The Ticknors are residents of Helena, but sold their home near Silver Creek in 2009 with the thought that they would build a new one for what was then a family of 12. They couldn’t find a home to rent in the interim, so they bought a 30-foot travel trailer and moved into that.

Since they were mobile, they decided to go on a vacation, and in the past four years have hit close to 40 states and 80 national parks while home schooling the children. But they always return to Montana in the summer, where Vaughn Ticknor is a carpenter and works “day and night” to earn enough money to cover their travel costs. Two children were born since they moved into the trailer, and the two oldest boys, age 21 and 23, have moved into a “sticks and bricks” house and gotten jobs.

Last year the 12 Ticknors were campground hosts at White Sandy beach on Hauser Reservoir, and expected to be camp hosts again this year. But that fell through unexpectedly, and Dana Ticknor said that ever since they returned she had the oddest feeling that they needed to be ready to hit the road again.

‘We want to help’

Then the tornados hit in Oklahoma and she knew what they had to do.

“They’re not building homes yet, but people are looking for valuables and chopping down trees and bucking them up so they can be hauled off,” she said. “They’re going through piles of two-by-fours and disintegrating sheetrock, trying to get control of their lives and we want to help them.”

She said the family doesn’t need monetary donations, and they’re trying to stay away from heavy items like bottled water or Gatorade. Relief organizations said that they don’t need clothing, and any donated items should be new, not used, if at all possible.

What they are hoping people will donate are personal hygiene items for displaced residents, like deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, diapers and baby wipes.

For the volunteers, they can use donations like work gloves, construction-grade garbage bags and hand sanitizer. Individually wrapped snacks are always welcome, but she noted that they should be compressed items like granola or energy bars rather than large items like chips.

They’ll park the family’s 14-foot white work trailer in the parking lot of Murdoch’s at the corner of Montana and Custer from 5 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday to accept the donations, and hope to hit the road by Friday for the 1,468-mile trip.

In Dana Ticknor’s blog at ticknortribe.com, she notes that they need to wait for her husband to finish up two jobs here before they can go, and her two oldest boys are trying to figure out a way to leave immediately. She writes that they recall seeing the devastation and hopelessness first hand in other places hit by tornados.

“(Vaughn) also knows the renewed hope, and the encouragement and love, that having people come in and volunteer their time to help those in need brings to those same storm victims,” she wrote. “And that is why, even though we just got back to our hometown (where we usually spend the whole summer), we will be hitting the road again in just one week.”

People who want to find out more about donating can contact her at ticknortribe@msn.com. To find out more about Samaritan’s Purse, go online to samaritanspurse.org.

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