By Susan Redden
Brandi Hill burst into tears Tuesday night when Gov. Jay Nixon announced that she will get a new home this summer as part of the 2012 Governor’s Joplin Habitat Challenge.
Nixon called Hill and her children onto the stage at the Joplin Holiday Inn Convention Center when he made the announcement in a room filled with Missouri University supporters who gathered for a Tiger Caravan visit to highlight MU sports.
They gave Hill a standing ovation, along with the families of Pamela Davis and Ashli Robinson, who also will get new homes to be built by Habitat for Humanity volunteers who will work alongside representatives of sports teams including the MU Tigers. The homes will be among 35 to be built in Joplin as part of the governor’s challenge.
Hill’s home near 26th Street and Sergeant Avenue was demolished in the May 22 tornado. She and son Lucas, 2, and daughter Brylee, 1, all were hospitalized with injuries, and they now are living with family.
Hill said she couldn’t hold back the tears when she learned she would get a new home.
“I’m so excited and happy,” she said. “We’ve had our application in since February.”
Robinson said she, her daughter Jadyn, 12, and son Garren, 6, are living in a Federal Emergency Management Agency mobile home. She said that in addition to losing her home, she lost a cousin, Keith Robinson, who was a worker at Greenbriar Nursing Home, which also was demolished in the tornado.
Robinson said she is glad to have the FEMA housing but eager to be able to replace that with a home. She said bad weather is very upsetting to her son, “and in a trailer, you can hear everything.”
Davis said she and her husband also are living in a FEMA mobile home along with adopted grandchildren Kameray, Deondre and Rashawn. Before the tornado, their home was at 2001 Texas Ave.
The three women said they were surprised by the announcement. They said went to the convention center because Habitat officials told them there would be a meeting as part of the application steps.
Nixon told the MU supporters that the Tigers are in the lead in signing up volunteers who will work on the building project. The 35 homes will be divided into seven neighborhoods, with one of seven Missouri athletic franchises to sponsor each of the neighborhoods. Players, coaches, alumni and staff members from each organization will serve alongside volunteers and professional builders in helping with the construction.
In addition to MU, sports organizations committed to the project are the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Blues and NASCAR.
Nixon said his administration has allocated $3.6 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds that will be used to buy the land and materials for the project, and to hire construction supervisors to lead the volunteer teams.
Nixon said the project will be “another step” in Joplin’s building back, and that he continues “to marvel at the strength of the community.”
He said he is encouraged that the school year has gone well for students, and that sales tax receipts and employment have remained strong.
MORE THAN 2,000 VOLUNTEERS have signed up for the challenge, and others may register to volunteer with the tam of their choice or to contribute in the name of their favorite team at www.mo.gov