By Angie Bado, TSB Publisher
“I love helping. I believe in giving back; that’s how I was raised,” McKinney native Seth Ringley told me. His voice conveyed an earnestness that betrays his passion for helping others, as he and his mom, Nina Ringley, sat down with me at the TSB studios to discuss their recent trip to offer assistance in Moore, Okla.
The caring that Seth exudes was evident as he, Blake Giles and A.J. Newton, two other McKinney North alums (’04), packed up 1,500 pounds of meat, pallets of corn, pork and beans and bread. They set out on Memorial Day weekend to help feed some of the Moore residents who were vicitms of the EF5 tornado that carved a 17-mile path of destruction through the city on May 20. Nina said she and her best friend, Julie Cooke, decided to join the caravan at the last minute in order to lend a hand.
The guys, seeing a need, put together a plan to cook for the volunteers who streamed to Moore by the hundreds and they began gathering donations on May 22, asking local businesses to help, and using a “Help feed & clothe those in Oklahoma” page through GoFundMe to raise funds for the effort. What they actually found was not what they had anticipated.
“Blake, the welder, always talked about building grills, and we got that business (Triple G Smokers) going just two weeks before this,” Seth said. “He already began catering. We all three cook and we host friend’s parties.”
Explaining that he has family in the Moore area — Nina’s cousin bought his coffee each morning at the 7-11 that was damaged by the tornado — Seth felt a strong desire to help. Although their family was not directly affected by the storm, Seth and his friends decided that, with so many homes devastated and uninhabiatable, it was an opportunity to make a difference and put their cooking skills to work. They packed up the grill, a smoker and the groceries and headed to Moore.
“We thought that we would be serving the volunteers, but it turned out that we served many (victims) who came back to their properties to sort through their belongings,” Seth said. “They were so happy to have a hot meal. They’ve been eating packaged meals and sandwiches since the tornado hit.”
As it turned out, when Seth and the team arrived in Moore on Saturday, May 27, they were placed right smack in the center of all of the devastation. They set up a mobile cooking center where they feed the victims, volunteers and soldiers.
“We set up on a slab where there was nothing left of the house,” Seth said. “There wasn’t a home where we set up that wasn’t affected. The victims had been eating mostly packaged food and the hot kitchen was about a mile away. Many who came back to sort through their property didn’t want to stop and go that distance, so they came to us for hot food.”
“Seth had a good idea when he came up with going there and cooking,” Nina said, “because so many donations were packaged. I feel that the people enjoyed having real cooked food. People were surprised that everything was free and that we weren’t with a particular church group.”
Photo: Nina Ringley (R) with her friend Julie Cooke in Moore, Oklahoma
Photos courtesy of Nina Ringley
Top photo: From Left, Blake Giles, Seth Ringley and A.J. Newton
The three guys, along with Nina and Julie, set up their mobile kitchen and began cooking. The team worked to figure out an assembly line of food, serving smoked brisket, chicken, grilled onions, pork and beans, corn, and bread. They served hot food until dark the first day, cleaned up after day and awoke at 5:15 the next morning to do it all over again.
While serving the first day, Nina said, “Julie said to me, ‘Nina, look up.’ We were working so fast, but I looked up and the line (of people) was so long that we just kept working.”
On Sunday, the group set up at the Armory, serving the Civil Air Patrol breakfast tacos and then they moved their camp back to the main area of tornado damage where they served another hot meal until they ran out of food around 4 p.m. The Ringleys think they served somewhere around 1,500 people during that first trip to Moore.
“To be in the midst of such a disaster, was humbling,’ Nina said. “People talked about their experiences and cried but never once did I have a negative story.
Seth said, “It (doing something for the victims) feels amazing. It’s an awesome experience, not only being able to help, but seeing all the other volunteers out there.” Seth and Nina said they met volunteers from all over the country. One couple from France changed their vacation plans in order to spend their time helping the tornado victims instead of traveling.
Nina said, “The guys did an awesome job – it (the meal) was what many of us would have at a large social event. There was just lots of joy in serving. One thing I can’t forget is how upbeat everyone was. I loved doing something positive with a best friend I’ve known my whole life and with my son and his friends. Coming together – it was awesome.”
Mother and son both said they were “humbled by the trust that people in McKinney put into us doing this.” As they asked for donations of all kinds, the businesses and citizens of McKinney responded.
“McKinney is very gracious. It’s amazing to see,” Nina said.
FEMA suggested that the Ringleys come back in a month or two, because everyone helps immediately and then the assistance tapers off, Nina said. And it doesn’t look like the families of Moore will go without assistance anytime soon, if Seth and his friends have anything to do with it. The friends plans to continue to raise money to feed and clothe the victims, while returning to Moore set up their mobile kitchen as often as possible.
“I believe in giving back,” Seth said, with his mom shaking her head in agreement and adding, “We believe that what goes around comes around.”
Nina had one more emotion to share before the visit ended.
“I am proud to be an American from McKinney, Texas,” she said.
Seth and his friends started out with a goal of raising $25,000 to continue helping the tornado victims. That goal has been met, and as of June 6, the donations amount to $40,905 raised by 980 people in 15 days. Donations are pouring in from across the Metroplex. Donate here. Any funds that would happen to be left over will be donated to the Red Cross disaster relief team.
Below is a letter from Seth Ringley: (June 6, 2013)
Bob Tomes Ford and Brandon Tomes Subaru are now hosting a canned food, gift card, teddy bear and toy drive! Please donate any of the following to their McKinney location on the West side of HWY 75 between Eldorado and Virginia. All donations will be going to all the families in and around Moore, Oklahoma.
Please continue to share the gofundme.com/oklahomatornadorelief page and feel free to message us on here if your available to help any weekend!
Also I will be starting a Moore Chive clean up and meet up weekend and will have more info on that soon.
Thanks again for everything, we are now able to help thousands of people thanks to everyone that has supported us.
Also please go to:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mckinney-Chive-Tornado-Relief-Team/501049149961802 to get the latest info on helping in Moore every weekend when we go!