By Emily Younker
Three homes under construction at the corner of 26th Street and Oliver Avenue in west Joplin are the first of 20 houses that Homes of Hope Joplin expects to build in the next few years for victims of the May 22, 2011, tornado.
“We created a nonprofit to help renters who are interested in becoming homeowners,” co-founder Linda Lonchar Cherry said Wednesday during a news conference at Joplin City Hall designed to spotlight the group. “We did start a grass-roots organization. We try to build homes and help with the need in Joplin.”
Cherry, who lives and works in Branson, grew up at 27th Street and Pearl Avenue in Joplin and attended St. Mary’s Elementary School, South Middle School and Parkwood High School. When the tornado hit Joplin last spring, she said she knew she wanted to help.
“When I came back in May (last year), it was pretty devastating,” she said. “There wasn’t one thing left from what my childhood held.”
The group’s first house, which is halfway finished and about 1,500 square feet in size, will be given away in a contest upon its completion. Cherry said the group hopes to sell 5,000 tickets for $100 apiece, and they are currently seeking sponsors for the contest.
Applications for the remaining houses will become available as the houses are completed. Applicants must be Joplin residents who are not homeowners, must provide proof of employment, and must have suffered a housing loss on May 22.
The value of the houses would be determined after an appraisal and after construction costs are finalized. Cherry said the organization will try to keep the cost of the houses low through donations and volunteer work, but new homeowners would ultimately buy the houses.
“Our housing will be a hand up, not a handout,” she said.
The first few houses are each in the range of 1,500 square feet, but she hopes eventually to construct bigger houses.
“As we go into this project ... then I think we’d like to grow,” she said. “We would like very much to see those homes become a little larger with a little larger footprint and a little larger landprint.”
Longtime Joplin resident Charlie Brown, who handles sales and fundraising and coordinates volunteers for the organization, said the primary need now is roofing materials. A benefit on July 20 is expected to raise money for that effort.
Brown said the organization has relied on fundraising and donations, including sponsorships from local businesses, since it was set up last fall.
“We’re all private citizens,” he said, referring to himself, Cherry and co-founder Crystal Lee Wolfe. “We don’t have Ty Pennington (of ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’) and ABC to throw us $1 million.”
For more information on Homes of Hope Joplin or to donate to the group, call 417-559-9266.
Homes of Hope Joplin will hold a benefit Friday, July 20, at Branson Landing in Branson. Food, drinks and family friendly activities will begin at 10 a.m. City Limits and stars from the “American Idol Finalists Live” show will perform beginning at 7 p.m. All proceeds will go toward Homes of Hope Joplin.