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November 18, 2003

When fire destroyed most of the contents of the Operation Blessing storehouse in south Perry a few weeks ago, most of us crossed our fingers and prayed that another facility would quickly become available. Enough time now has passed that we know itís not going to be that easy to resume the program.

The old Blaine school was in an ideal location to serve many of this community's needy. Cars and other vehicles could be driven up close to the front door. Pedestrian traffic also could easily be accommodated. Even though the old sandstone building was unheated in the winter and not air conditioned for Oklahoma's searing summers, the school served a real need. Operation Blessing made it possible for numerous families to have adequate clothing for children and adults of every age plus other household necessities that made their lives a little more tolerable.

The Blaine building has not been used as a school for decades. It was very suitable for the helpful assistance provided by Operation Blessing. Arson is generally believed to have been the cause of the fire. Time goes on and winter is now settling in with no central location for the kind of assistance that Operation Blessing provided. A new home for the service is still being sought. Prospects for an early solution to this dilemma are not bright. Meanwhile, the ARC center on Sixth Street, just north of the square, also has closed.

One idea that has come to the surface is offered by Fred Kohman, a retired engineer from the Ditch Witch company, the Charles Machine Works, Inc. Fred and I share the same first name and birth date so we have had many informal conversations over a span of several years. The other day he called with a suggestion that seems worth considering.

Apparently, an existing building is not available in Perry as a future home for Operation Blessing. Here's the suggestion: Get a group of community-minded people together and check out the expense of erecting a portable steel building, something on the order of a Butler building or General Steel, or from some other manufacturer. The cost should be fairly low, and generous Perryans have demonstrated their willingness to help out in such cases. It might be only a shell at first, but the new home could provide shelter from Oklahoma's weather extremes, plus a place to store wearing apparel and other things. The aid program then could be resumed after restocking from the homes of generous Perry friends.

It just might be that some other local agency, perhaps the Perry Habitat for Humanity, would be interested in assisting in exchange for a space they could use to store their equipment and material. Habitat, for example, is providing another kind of real help in this community but it has no central location

These are positive ideas offered by Fred Kohman and they would require the acceptance and dedication of many others to bring them to reality, but does anyone else have a better idea? I think the need for Operation Blessing already has been demonstrated here. Who will step up to get this program moving here again?