The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 3, 2012

Volunteers leave messages of hope at Habitat home

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — Editor’s note: The Joplin Globe, in an ongoing series, is telling the story of the many hands that play a role in recovery from the May 22, 2011, tornado by following the construction of a Habitat for Humanity home being built at 2630 S. Wall Ave. Every piece of the home, from the studs that were raised recently to the final landscaping, and every volunteer who participates has a story.

It started with a message from a volunteer named Gary: “May God bless all those who share in building this home! Bless your home, keep you safe! God bless Joplin. Thrivent Builds Worldwide. Joplin ’12. Gary F.”

The otherwise anonymous volunteer penned it with a red Sharpie marker while helping to assemble wall frames for the home being built by Habitat for Humanity at 2630 S. Wall Ave.

On the first day of the build, as the wall with Gary’s message was put into place on the front of the home, the former owner of the lot, Tomie Avant, grabbed a red  marker from her car and wrote:

“God bless you and your wonderful family. I pray that you have as many happy memories in your home as I did in mine. My love and prayers go to you and your family. 10/8/1012.”

She penned her message directly opposite from the first: Gary’s is on the north side of the front picture window, and hers is on the south.

Then other volunteers saw Tomie’s and Gary’s messages, and began adding their own. Some were written in pen, some in pencil. They wrote them on two-by-fours, plywood — any wood on which ink or lead could be added.

Kansas City jazz musician Ken Rosberg added simply his name and “K.C.” Someone with the initials SDL from West Chester, Pa., wrote, “Bless this house and the people in it.”

Some volunteers were more verbose, like the anonymous writer who quoted Isaiah 40:31: “Those who put their hope in the Lord ... will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint. May you be blessed.”

Those messages quickly were covered by the work of other volunteers, however — first plywood, then wrap, then siding — and for the rest of the life of the home will remain unseen.

“Sure, it’s going to be covered up, but it’s a memento of who was there to share with the homeowner how they felt about their experiences,” said Scott Clayton, executive director of Joplin Habitat for Humanity. “It also is neat for other volunteers to see who have come in from all across the country.”

And because the homeowners contribute sweat equity by being involved with the home’s construction throughout the process, they have seen the messages themselves.

“It’s a common practice at all our Habitat houses to find messages written from all over the country. They almost always say ‘We’re with you, God bless you’ and that’s a nice reminder of the support we receive,” Clayton said.

He pointed out that because Habitat is a Christian nonprofit organization, it’s not unusual for many of the messages to be religious in nature.

“God puts love into the hearts of his creation, and it’s reflected when people leave messages like that,” Clayton said.