By Debby Woodin
Flo Taylor is usually greeting her customers and their children at the Wal-Mart store where she has worked more than 18 years.
On Tuesday, though, she greeted dozens of volunteers and visitors who celebrated the new Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity house she will share with her daughter, Norma, and grandson, Eddie, 13.
After the 2011 tornado, she felt blessed when she made it out of the rubble that had been her Hampshire Terrace apartment with only a few scrapes and cuts, and now she feels blessed to have had the help of the Habitat organization and the volunteers who stepped up to the Governor’s Challenge to build homes, she said.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing they do to help people,” she said from the porch of her new home at 2610 S. Kentucky Ave. “People have been really good to us, and we want to say thank you, thank you, thank you to all of them.”
The Taylors are one of five families who celebrated new Habitat homes in the neighborhood on Tuesday. A dedication ceremony was held for the Taylor house as well as those of the Wayne and Jamie CrandellDebby Woodin 11/13/12 stet family, 2602 S. Grand Ave.; the Amy Stockton family, 2631 S. Pennsylvania Ave.; the Linda Hazley family, 2512 S. Kentucky Ave.; and the family of Laurence and Marchella Claar, 2514 S. Kentucky Ave.Debby Woodin 11/13/12 names stet
They all received homes through the Habitat program. They were built with the leadership of the Kansas City Chiefs football team as part of a challenge issued last year by Gov. Jay Nixon for sports organizations to help build 35 houses.
“After the tornado, the mission of Habitat increased greatly,” Scott Clayton, executive director of the organization, told the crowd of volunteers and well-wishers. The day represented a milestone for the organization, he said.
“We have built 30 houses and have 42 under construction, many nearing completion,” thanks to the influence of the sports teams in drawing volunteers to help, Clayton said. “Thank you Gov. Nixon for approaching those teams.”
Sports organizations that have contributed to rebuilding Joplin in addition to the Chiefs are the Kansas City Royals; the St. Louis Rams, Cardinals and Blues; the University of Missouri Tigers; and NASCAR.
A palette of red, orange and yellow will color the neighborhood in autumn, thanks to a donation by NASCAR.
Volunteers on Tuesday planted 100 maple trees from 20th Street to 28th Street on South Kentucky Avenue as that organization’s contribution to the challenge.
“NASCAR is the largest in the sports industry for green; they plant more than any other sports industry,” said John Berwald of Paradise Nursery in Kansas City. NASCAR in Daytona, Fla., donated the trees to Joplin through the nursery. Berwald said four varieties of maples with trunks 2 1/2 inches in diameter were being set in the ground along the sidewalks and in the yards of the area.
NASCAR provided trees that are already good-sized with the intention of creating a buzz.
“What NASCAR wanted to do is to give it a splash so when people pull up, they say, ‘Wow, this is amazing,’” Berwald said. “Maybe it will be contagious and people will do it on other streets.”
Nixon was unable to attend the dedication. Nancy Johnston, director of administrative services for his office, represented him.
“I want to congratulate each of the families on their new homes,” Johnston said. “This is the day the governor envisioned when he launched the challenge with seven great sports teams. The Chiefs showed us that the boundaries of sports go way beyond the field.”
The Rotary Clubs of Joplin will unveil another home built through the Habitat for Humanity organization at noon Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 2322 S. Kentucky Ave. That house was built with donations the local clubs received from around the world after the 2011 tornado.
At a glance
JOPLIN AREA HABITAT FOR HUMANITY was founded in 1989. It has constructed 60 homes, 30 of those part of the Governor’s Challenge in response to the 2011 tornado.
THE ORGANIZATION’S MISSION is to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness in the Jasper County area.
FOR INFORMATION on homebuying or volunteering, people may call 782-6533. Donations of materials may be made at the ReStore, 315 S. Black Cat Road.