By Emily Younker
The air around Michael John’s house was full of the aroma of smoked meats Friday night.
“I was trying to think of how I could say thank you, and the best thing I could think of was to say thank you through food,” John said. “Everybody likes food.”
John, whose house was destroyed in the May 2011 tornado, was host for a barbecue for the volunteers who have helped rebuild his home over the past several months. He worked with his childhood friend, Terry Collins, owner of TC’s Smoked Meats, to serve food, drinks and cake on Friday to about 30 volunteers from Rebuild Joplin and AmeriCorps, along with his family and friends.
“I just wanted to show them how much I appreciated everything they’ve done,” John said.
John had lived in his home in the 2300 block of South Byers Avenue for about 35 years when it was damaged beyond repair by the tornado. He lived temporarily with his daughter, with some friends and in the Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer park in north Joplin for weeks before buying some materials and starting the rebuild of his house in August 2011.
But the work proved to be too much for him. After help from another organization fell through, he got in touch with Rebuild Joplin.
Rebuild Joplin had originally been scheduled only to work on a technical matter underneath the house, but volunteers with the group eventually finished most of the inside work of the house, including some framing, utility work, flooring and insulation, project manager Brad Mudge said.
Beginning about four months ago, about 10 volunteers per week worked in rotating shifts on John’s house through Rebuild Joplin, and work wrapped up about three weeks ago, Mudge said.
“We’ve had a good time and are very excited and happy to have Michael home,” he said.
John said the help from Rebuild Joplin was a “godsend.”
“It would have taken me probably two years to get to this point that they have gotten to in months,” he said.
John has moved into his home, but he admits that adjusting to a new house after 35 years in another one has been a challenge.
“Really it’s not home yet, but I can see that it will be,” he said. “It’s very comfortable.”
In addition to the barbecue, Rebuild Joplin put on a ribbon-cutting ceremony to formally welcome John to his new home.
Tara Clark, client services and volunteer manager with Rebuild Joplin, said she was “delighted” to help John celebrate his homecoming.
“It’s one of the homes we talk about when we talk about success stories,” she said during the ribbon-cutting. “We’re just super excited to bring you home; so, welcome home.”
“They were so great; they worked with me on everything,” Michael John said of volunteers with Rebuild Joplin and AmeriCorps.