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 at 2630 S. Wall Ave. Every piece of the home, from the studs that were raised this fall to the final landscaping, and every volunteer who participates has a story.
Later this year, Ed and Angela Kunce will move into the latest in a string of places they’ve called home since the May 22, 2011, tornado. This one is it, they say.
It’s a Habitat for Humanity home the couple are helping build at 2630 S. Wall Ave.
“The night of the storm, we stayed with my son’s fiancee’s family. Then we stayed with Angela’s brother a few weeks. Then friends. Now we live in a (Federal Emergency Management Agency) trailer,” Ed Kunce said. “In 26 years of marriage, we moved one time. And then we moved four times in eight months.”
The couple were in their apartment on 20th Street when the storm hit. They sought shelter in one of their two bathrooms.
“A guy’s bathtub from the apartment above fell into it,” Ed Kunce said. “My wife was injured, I was injured and we lost everything. But yeah, I feel lucky.”
It took them 45 minutes to find their son, Travis, 23, who was at Olympic Fitness Center nearby; he, too, was OK.
Since the storm, they’ve resumed their lives, Ed as a sales representative at Osborne Paper Co. and Angela at Mercy Hospital Joplin’s Oncology Clinic. They’ve been appreciative of donated clothes and shoes.
In April, when Ed Kunce, a lifelong Baltimore Orioles fan, learned Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. would be in Joplin helping with an earlier Habitat for Humanity build, he called Travis and they drove to the site.
“We waited two hours for him to finish in hopes we’d get to say, ‘Hello,’” he said. “Ripken did better than that; he agreed to have his picture taken with us.”
While there, Habitat volunteers learned the family’s story. They encouraged Ed Kunce to apply to see if he and his wife qualified for a Habitat home of their own.
They did. As partners in the process, Ed and Angela Kunce are required to put in 300 hours of sweat equity. It began with the wall raising, during which Ed Kunce carried the photo of Ripken in his pocket and Travis Kunce wore his Orioles jersey.
The couple also worked with the home’s sponsor, the Justice League, to put siding on the home, and worked with Thrivent Builds when work moved inside.
“It was wonderful to meet people from Indianapolis, Wisconsin, Minnesota, all there to volunteer,” Ed Kunce said.
Because the couple work during the week, they sometimes find it a challenge to be at their home during daylight hours with scheduled volunteer groups. So they’ve put in sweat equity hours at other Habitat homes where work is done on Saturdays.
They have found satisfaction, they said, at being able to take part in the construction of their home and others.
“Going through the tornado was very difficult for us to accept things from people — very hard, because we don’t like that,” Ed Kunce said. “This gives us a way to do something for us and the community.”
When their home is finished, they most look forward to being able to invite friends and family to gatherings. Angela can’t wait to have a patio — Ed loves to grill — and eventually a garage or carport.
“We’re so ready. We want to move on with our lives,” Ed Kunce aid. “We’ll go over there and clean the site up from construction debris, then we’ll just stand in the house for an hour and say, ‘Let’s put the chair here, let’s put the TV here.’”
“It looks like a house now. We’re thinking it’s just going to be wonderful.”
The Justice League is comprised of local judges, lawyers and law enforcement officers who are sponsoring the Habitat for Humanity build at 2630 S. Wall Ave.