By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Seven-year-old Vanessa Garrison’s feelings were spelled out in sparkling silver glitter letters on a piece of blue poster board.
“Thank You,” read the sign she carried as new starts for 10 tornado-displaced families were celebrated Thursday at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.
It was the dedication ceremony for the next-to-last phase of the Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity’s Governor’s Challenge. Five houses each were built in the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals neighborhoods and now they’re ready for occupancy. Rain drove the dedication ceremonies for the houses inside the St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.
“In our dreams we didn’t think we’d get to own our own home,” said Vanessa’s mother, Erika Garrison. “It is the greatest gift from God.”
They, and several of the other 10 families who are buying the houses, have been living in mobile homes provided as temporary housing by the Federal Emergency Management Agency since losing their homes in the 2011 tornado. Some of the displaced families have moved around staying with family or friends or where they could.
Gov. Jay Nixon called on the state’s sports team to help build 35 Habitat houses in Joplin as a way to help spur recovery from the 2011 tornado. With the dedications today, 29 of the 35 are finished. There are some last touches to be done to one house in the St. Louis Rams neighborhood that will soon bring the total to 30. Then the last phase of the project, five houses in the NASCAR neighborhood, are to be built, according to Barbie Huff, the Habitat development director.
Sallie Hemenway of the Missouri Department of Economic Development thanked Habitat associates and volunteers on behalf of the governor for “succeeding and exceeding the expectations of the Governor’s Challenge.”