Glenn Snyder uses a pocketknife to sharpen a handful of carpenter’s pencils.
With a few cuts on each, he makes quick work of the task. It’s clear the calloused hands of this 85-year-old Carthage resident have sharpened a few pencils in the past.
“I started doing this when I was 14 years old. I built a room onto a house and built a pole barn,’’ he said. “I think what were doing today is all right, but I’m getting up in years for this kind of work.’’
Snyder was among 120 people with the Church of the Nazarene from three states who converged Monday morning in the 2600 block of South Pennsylvania Avenue to help construct three houses at the same time. The homes will be given to three families who were victims of the May 22, 2011, tornado.
“If I see something that’s not right, I’ll tell them something. But I’m going to be nice when I do it,’’ he said. “These people are all volunteers.’’
As Snyder heads back to the house on which he was working, the wind picks up in advance of an approaching storm. The air becomes much cooler.
“The Lord turned on the air,’’ one worker exclaimed.
A few minutes later, the first drops of a heavy rain start falling, sending workers with their tools in hand scurrying for cover in vehicles and under two tents that were erected to feed the workers. Before the weather forces them to break from their tasks, they have already erected part of the framing of each house.
It’s time for neighbors
“It will be nice to have neighbors again,’’ said Carol Bach, whose home at 2630 Pennsylvania Ave. sits between two of the houses that are being constructed. From her front porch, she has a front row seat from which to observe all of the activity.
“It’s time. It has been over a year now,’’ she said. “You begin to miss all of your neighbors who did not come back.’’
Bach rebuilt the home where her parents had lived.
“My mom and dad’s house was a beautiful house. I have been here since Oct. 1. I was the first house built here,’’ she said. “When the tornado hit, we took cover in a closet — two people and a German shepherd. It was all that was left.’’
Bach has struggled to get grass to grow in her yard. She has spread loads of dirt and pounds of grass seed. To protect her grass from foot traffic, church volunteers roped off her yard.
Ally Barnes, of Carthage, is coordinating the work on the houses for the Joplin District of the Church of the Nazarene as “a work and witness’’ project. The houses, each of which will have three bedrooms and two baths, are to be completed by July 13. Concrete-slab foundations for the houses were poured in March and April.
“We have people here from all over Missouri — Carthage, Nixa, Butler and Neosho. And we have some people from Kansas and Oklahoma, too. This is our big project,’’ she said. “We’re feeding them lunch. It’s barbecue chicken today.’’
More volunteers will be brought in during the coming weeks to keep the houses moving.
With so many hands, the work moves fast. The first wall of one house was framed and raised within 30 minutes of the volunteers’ arrival on Monday.
Some families with children have applied for the houses, but the church is still taking applications, said Jim Dillow, district superintendent. Applicants can go to the church website, at joplindistrictnaz.or or they can go to the Rebuild Joplin web site at rebuildjoplin.org.
“By the end of next week, we will be picking out the people who will get these houses,’’ Barnes said. “It will be their first home for most of them. It’s a gift from us to them.
“For us, it’s been a wonderful experience. By doing something helpful, we have created a bond from a shared experience.’’
On the Thursday after the tornado struck on May 22, 2011, the Joplin District of the Church of the Nazarene put out a call for people to come to Joplin to help clear debris. They were expecting 250 people. More than 850 people showed up, said Ally Barnes, who is coordinating the construction of three houses in Joplin for the church.