The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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October 8, 2012

GALLERY: Commitment to build Habitat home begins before walls go up

JOPLIN, Mo. — One week ago, 2630 S. Wall Ave. was nothing more than an empty lot.

In a matter of days, that all changed.

Crews dug a foundation on Tuesday.

Forms were set and concrete was poured on Wednesday.

Two days later, flooring was put in place.

By Monday, a blue-sky day just crisp enough for a jacket, the empty corner lot wasn’t empty anymore. There was a house. Or at least the skeletal frame of one.

“I couldn’t sleep last night I was so excited,” April Foulks said as she paused from putting up sections of framing on Monday morning.

The house — one of 47 that Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity has under construction in the area — illustrates what it takes as the community rebuilds from the nation’s worst tornado in more than half a century.

Before the first walls were raised, money needed to be raised, a site for the home had to be found, and donations, workers and volunteers had to be organized.

Volunteer beginnings

Foulks, a Webb City resident who works in the Jasper County juvenile office, was among a group of people from the courthouse who, in the immediate aftermath of the May 2011 tornado, helped shovel debris.

Some of it belonged to people they knew; some if it belonged to those they didn’t know.

“I think it began with us helping a co-worker, a woman who lived on Grand,” Foulks said. “And I remember thinking in the middle of that, ‘This is going to take years.’”

But, like other groups that responded to Joplin, they kept plugging away. Members made a list of cleanup projects and tackled one each weekend.

“The city got done a lot faster than we thought, and then we looked up one day and said, ‘It’s done,’” Foulks said.

Jasper County Circuit Judge Gayle Crane on Monday said members of the group didn’t want to stop helping, so they decided to shift their efforts from recovery to rebuilding.

In October 2011, Foulks called Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity to learn about the requirements for groups seeking to become house sponsors.

“They told me it was $50,000, and that sounded like a lot,” Foulks said. “I was very skeptical. But the judge (Crane) was positive. She said, ‘We’ll raise it.’”

Foulks, who used to work at the Joplin Police Department, and her husband, Derek Walrod, a captain with the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department, began reaching out to those they knew in the judicial system and law enforcement. So did Crane.

“This has been a case of someone who knows someone who knows someone,” Foulks said, referring to the way the project came together.

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