The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 16, 2013

Habitat house carries signatures of volunteers who rebuilt Joplin

JOPLIN, Mo. — Not much is known about “Gary F.”

He came to Joplin from an unknown state and helped build walls at the latest Habitat for Humanity home.

In red Sharpie marker, he penned a blessing on a two-by-four that was used to frame a kitchen window.

“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,” he wrote.

In the months that followed, more than 90 other volunteers from across the nation followed his lead, scribbling messages of hope and consolation at the home at 2630 S. Wall Ave.

Most are covered up now, beneath drywall and paint, but below the surface there remains that ever-present connection to the house and its owners.

“I think about it a lot,” said Ed Kunce, who with his wife, Angela, got the keys to the Habitat home during a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week.

“Behind the paint are those signatures, and that’s special. They’re from across the nation, people we didn’t even know who came here to help us. To me, the walls can talk a little.”

THE JUSTICE LEAGUE

The genesis for that Habitat home grew out of a tornado debris clean-up effort by a group of area residents linked by their roles in the judicial system and law enforcement. After the cleanup, they wanted to do more.

Billing themselves as “The Justice League,” they inquired about sponsoring a Habitat home. They learned they not only would need volunteers and work days, but they would first need $50,000.

Webb City resident April Foulks, who used to work at the Joplin Police Department, and her husband, Derek Walrod, a captain at the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department, helped spearhead the effort, but she admits to being intimidated by the challenge.

“I was very skeptical,” said Foulks, who now works in the Jasper County juvenile office.

She remembers thinking: “That sounds like a lot. There is no way we can raise that.”

Jasper County Circuit Judge Gayle Crane lent some support to the effort.

“We’ll raise it,” she told Foulks.

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