“Dysfunctional family of disaster survivors” pay it forward to Bethel Acres

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BETHEL ACRES, Okla. - From an outside perspective, it just sounds like construction. However, for volunteers visiting Bethel Acres, it's about building friendships.

"Not seeing everyone for a year, just reuniting with everybody," said Jimmy Sands, a retired New York firefighter."I got to tell you it's a dysfunctional family of disaster survivors."

'New York Says Thank You' is an organization that was started in 2003 as a way to empower survivors recovering from their own tragedy through volunteer projects.

"Last year, 'New York Says Thank You' built my house after Hurricane Sandy, which was completely lost," said Charles Sadler, a New York City police officer.

On May 19, 2013, a tornado in Bethel Acres destroyed Meaghan Hadley's barn.

Thanks to the program, organizers say she will have a new barn in just a few days, which will serve as a safe haven for animals and a place for therapeutic riding.

"We'll be able to partner with the schools and the mental health professionals around this area and will really be able to impact people as a whole," Hadley said."This isn't about me, this isn't about me at all, this is about what this program can do for the community and the state in general."

The labor of love brings together hundreds volunteers from all across the United States and Canada every year to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11 in a positive way.

"Just to see 400 people show up at your house on Thursday and stay through Sunday and build this, the feeling that you get is indescribable," Sadler said.

These disaster survivors are providing hope for the next generation of volunteers.

Darian Riley is a student at Bethel Acres, who says he is inspired by the "pay it forward" concept.

"I'm in tenth grade. When I'm graduated and I'm in college, I'm still going to remember this day," Riley said.

"This is not about one person, this is not about one group, this is about everyone helping each other and I think that's the most important aspect of this," Hadley said.

For more information, visit the New York Says Thank You website.

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