The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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August 28, 2013

Governor salutes results of Habitat Challenge

JOPLIN, Mo. — Eight-year-old Dalton Fickle squirmed with enthusiasm Wednesday as he talked about the new house his family bought through the Governor’s Joplin Habitat Challenge.

“It’s great,” the third-grader proclaimed. “I have a bigger room now.” It’s decorated with memorabilia from his favorite sports team. “It’s almost all Mizzou because that’s our favorite team. When there is a Mizzou game, we always watch it.”

That is because Fickle’s family home is in the University of Missouri — Mizzou — neighborhood of the Governor’s Habitat Challenge.

Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday congratulated the Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity, Missouri’s sports teams, volunteers and homeowners for meeting the challenge he organized last year to build 35 houses in a year for those in need after Joplin’s 2011 tornado.

“To meet the challenge, we asked Missourians to respond” by signing up on the state website,” Nixon said. “Not only did the people of Missouri respond, but the teams responded big time.”

A ceremony marking the accomplishment was put on Wednesday at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.

In addition to Mizzou, the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, the St. Louis Cardinals, Rams and Blues, and the Kansas Speedway representing NASCAR and NASCAR Unites lent their celebrity status to the project to attract volunteers. Players, coaches and others affiliated with the teams also conducted workdays in Joplin to work on the builds.

The governor said the project involved 660 Missouri volunteers who gave 3,363 hours on top of the hours donated by more than 500 from the sports teams.

A $3.6 million grant was used to hire professional contractors to direct the work and to buy materials and pay other expenses. The families buying the homes put in “sweat equity,” and the result, Nixon said, is a boost up for families and the community and a revenue stream for Habitat from the low-cost mortgages the homeowners will pay that can be used to build more homes.

Scott Clayton, director of the Habitat chapter, said, “We want to thank all those teams who worked with us. They are very special to us,” as well as the governor and volunteers who participated.

He told the Globe before the ceremony that “everything changed for us after the tornado. To be able to partner with the governor and the teams and all the volunteers, it’s been an amazing process.”

Though it was a lot of work, “it’s always good when the end story is a family with a brand new home they can be proud of,” Clayton said. Habitat has built 73 homes since the tornado, including the 35 in the challenge.

Kimberly McAfee and her son, Joshua, 7, are one of the last families to benefit from the challenge. They moved into their new home built by NASCAR in June. McAfee lived in a rental home that was destroyed in the tornado and worked at the Wal-Mart at 15th Street and Range Line, which also was leveled by the storm. Her parents, Tom and Johna McAfee, also lost their home.

“When I lost everything, I lost everything,” she said. She, her son and her parents were given temporary shelter by a Joplin firefighter and his family, and eventually the McAfees found a place to rent. Kimberly McAfee was accepted into the Habitat project, and her parents rebuilt their home.

“It has been a long process, but it’s been so worth it,” she said. “There were times it seemed it would never come, but thankfully that day has come.”

Joshua agrees.

“We already got it and it’s thumbs up,” he said of their new home. “It’s a huge one.”


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