The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 27, 2012

Family, left hanging by contractor, moves into new home

JOPLIN, Mo. — Rebuilding after the tornado has been a long and difficult road for Amy and Larry Jump.

But they at long last on Friday received the keys to their new home at 2424 Joplin Ave. from Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri.

The Jumps, whose house was destroyed in the May 22, 2011, tornado, had initially planned to move into a new home by Thanksgiving last year.

That’s when Relief Spark, a group formed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, told the Jumps their house would be ready. Relief Spark had enlisted a California building contractor to construct two houses, including that of the Jumps.

The Jumps gave the builder more than $54,000 for materials and supplies to build an energy-efficient house, and the other homeowner gave him about $64,000. The homeowners and Relief Spark never heard from the builder again.

The Missouri attorney general’s office is investigating. The builder has been charged in Jasper County with writing an insufficient funds check to a lumber company.

Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri stepped up for the Jumps. A group called Samaritan’s Purse stepped in for the other homeowner, Meagan Snider.

Amy Jump said she often thought this day might never come.

“It was a long time,” she said. “It was so worth the wait. I wouldn’t change anything now. I’ve met so many wonderful people.”

She credited Catholic Charities and dozens of volunteers from many organizations.

Their three sons, Conner, 8, Caden, 7, and Lucas, 4, were on hand.

“I can’t explain,” Larry Jump said. “It’s a great feeling. I have a lot of pride in this.”

He had done a lot of work himself on the house. He said the house, with four bedrooms and two bathrooms, is energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. He said the walls are constructed with 6-inch-thick structurally insulated panels. All the utilities are Energy Star rated.

A closet doubles as a safe room.

“It’s a huge weight off my shoulders” being in the new home, he said.

Amy Jump said they hadn’t yet grown accustomed to living there. They had lived in a rental house since the tornado. Before the tornado, they had done some remodeling work on their home and were planning to sell it.

“We are extremely thankful for everyone with Catholic Charities and all the volunteers,” she said.

Gabe Tischler, disaster coordinator for Catholic Charities, said it had developed partnerships with a Methodist relief group and a group called Experience Missions, which both were helpful on the project.

The Jumps’ case manager from Catholic Charities, Norma Hernandez, was on hand, providing hugs.

EMILY RUSSELL

Also receiving keys to her home, and a hug from Hernandez, was Emily Russell, whose home at 2408 Montana Place was extensively damaged in the tornado. She lives in the house her grandparents moved into in 1971.

Russell lives in the house with her sons, Alex, 12, and Gavin, 5, and their four dogs.

“It’s nicer now than it ever was,” she said.

She said she moved into the house after her mother gave it to her and she completed extensive remodeling on May 1, 2011. She and her sons were in the bathtub when the tornado struck on May 22.

The house was heavily damaged and subsequent rain caused more damage. They stayed in a series of locations after the tornado.

She said workers with AmeriCorps removed the drywall down to the frame for her. She sought loans from banks, including her own bank, with no luck. She sought help from other sources, until meeting Tischler in December.

“He told me, ‘We will help you rebuild your house,’” she said. “That was the first promising thing I had heard in a while.”

Some of the rooms that were in the original house were rearranged in the rebuilding. The house has three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Tischler said Russell will be getting a safe room soon.

“Alex asks me every day, ‘Are we going to get a storm shelter?’” she said.

Russell said she also was grateful to the many volunteers from many sources who helped her rebuild.

“I’ve made a lot of friends,” she said.

Track record

Gabe Tischler, disaster coordinator with Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri, said the charity has built four houses, including the two on Friday, and repaired more than 100 houses damaged by the tornado.

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