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Social Media Harnessed To Rebuild OK Tornado Victim’s Home

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
Angela Davis joined the station in 2006. Angela co-anchors the Sund...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Two months after a tornado flattened dozens of homes in Moore, Okla., families are starting to rebuild, and one woman’s story remains fresh in our memories.

Barbara Garcia was hiding in her bathroom when the tornado hit, and lost track of her dog after her entire house came down.

But as she talked with a reporter from CBS News about the storm, it became clear that her best friend was still alive.

Cameras captured the moment when Garcia discovered her dog, Bowser, had survived the storm and was hiding under some rubble, unharmed.

On Wednesday, another miracle played out in her life. A Minneapolis woman is helping her raise money to build a new house.

Erin DeRuggiero saw Garcia’s story after a friend posted a link to it on Facebook.

“What struck me about her is that she just wanted to live,” DeRuggiero said. “I think the question was ‘What do you make of all this?’ and she said ‘This is life in the big city, this is what happens and my prayers were answered, I’m alive.’ She didn’t care about her stuff. She cared about being alive, and that her dog was alive. So I really thought in that moment, what if life in the big city could be something else?”

That day DeRuggiero — who co-founded a company called Social Reality, which creates apps for brands that want to connect with consumers — created a page for Garcia on the website GoFundMe.com.

Then she shared the news on social media.

“The first day was really just my friends. I posted a link and got like a $1,000,” DeRuggiero said. “I was jumping up and down. I was so excited. I had no idea I would be successful in doing it. And then when I got the first donations from a stranger — not someone connected to me, not someone that my friends knew — I knew people were searching for [Garcia] online.”

Garcia recently talked with a CBS reporter in Oklahoma about all the donations that have poured in to help her.

“Even though I have lost, I have gained so much,” she said. “This has shown me how many good, good people are out there.”

Meanwhile, DeRuggiero says this experience has also been rewarding for her.

“I was telling my friends the other day: Some people go to church, some people do yoga. I like to practice random acts of kindness. The feeling you get from this, is really to feel connected to other people,” she said.

DeRuggiero is flying to Oklahoma this Friday to meet Garcia in person for the first time on Saturday. So far, they’ve only spoken on the phone.

Construction on the new house will be done in a few weeks. It’s a small two bedroom home on the same lot where Garcia used to live.

DeRuggiero wants to continue raising money to help pay for homeowner’s insurance as well as furniture. A company that specializes in storm shelters is building one for Garcia.

Home Depot gave her a gift card to help pay for paint and landscaping.

They are still taking donations, if you’d like to help just click here.

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