The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


July 10, 2012

Joplin home framed at All-Star Build

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Amid the bustle and beer and heat and hoopla outside Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday stood two framed houses, an odd sight amid the 2012 MLB All-Star Game festivities.

Next to the Pepsi Max speed pitch game, where middle-aged men risked serious arm injury, and the Chervrolet test drive track, where Corvettes and Camaros were continually revved, stood the skeletons of what will soon be homes.

“Home, obviously, for anybody is a big deal,” said Heather Fitz, a communications director for Habitat for Humanity International. “ But for the particular families it’s huge.”

One of the two homes will make its way to Joplin, where it will be assembled for the Smith family on South Picher. The other will head to Tuscaloosa, Ala., another community ravaged by tornadoes.

The two houses were framed on-site in Kansas City as part of the All-Star Build, which will finish with a total of nine houses for nine families — five in Joplin and four in Tuscaloosa. Major League Baseball teamed with State Farm and Holiday Inn and then partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build the homes.

“There is such a great need in those two cities,” Fitz said. “It’s a year later but, as the people in Joplin know, there is so much left to do.”

The homes were signed by MLB players, past and present, on Monday. MLB commissioner Bud Selig signed the frame that is headed to Tuscaloosa. Hank Aaron even stopped by to sign the homes.

“The families will read them. They’ll read each and every message,” Fitz said. “We’ve done this time and time again and they read them and add their own messages.”

The project was announced on May 9 and five homes have been completed. Habitat plans to have the remaining four done before the World Series.

The families receiving the homes had to go through applications and programs before they were approved. They’ll have to pay for the homes, something Fitz said many people are surprised to learn.

“I think one of the biggest misconceptions about Habitat is that the homes are free, but they’re not. These families will have interest-free mortgages,” she said. “They’ve been in the program and they’ve done what we call sweat equity hours. They work on their homes, other people’s homes, they take budgeting classes. We give them all sorts of things that set them up for success as home owners.”

Tim Story, a home builder who lives between Joplin and Neosho, showed up to the All-Star Build site in the late afternoon. Having been involved with the two homes that are already completed in Joplin, Habitat for Humanity gifted Story with four tickets to Tuesday night’s All-Star Game.

“I’ve never been to an All-Star Game. This is special,” said Story, a longtime Cardinals fan. “I’m really looking forward to the atmosphere. All of it.”

Story, who said he has been building homes since the mid-1990s, will help disassemble the Joplin house today and prepare it to be shipped to Picher Street.

“We had a great time with it. It was fun working with the home owners. It was nice to watch their excitement,” he said. “We had several people who volunteered, one guy almost on a daily basis when he got off work. It’s been a lot of fun, it really has.”

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