By Roger McKinney
The newest Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity house is a team effort with Joplin Rotary. Groundbreaking for the house at 2322 S. Kentucky Ave. was held Wednesday. Construction is expected to take three months.
Valerie Searcy, chairwoman of the Tornado Volunteer Project Committee for Rotary, said that while club members have been volunteering in many ways since the May 22 tornado, this house is a major focus.
“This is the big project we’ve taken on to help one family affected by the tornado,” she said.
Joplin Rotary members will be assisted by Rotary members from Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Searcy said donations for the house have come from more than 1,000 Rotary members worldwide.
“It’s just been amazing,” she said.
When the house is done, Jenny Coleman and her three children, daughter Jayda, 17, son Devon, 14, and son Andrew, 12, will move in.
“The tornado has devastated a lot of people’s lives, but it’s also brought a lot of people together,” Coleman said during the ceremony.
She was at work on May 22, and her children were at home in their duplex at 21st Street and Pennsylvania Avenue when the storm hit. She said her daughter called her at work, telling her that storm sirens had sounded. Coleman said she told her children to get in their designated spot, between two doorways, with mattresses on top of them.
Some frantic moments followed, she said. Andrew called, telling her that things were breaking and Jayda was crying, before the signal was lost. She tried unsuccessfully to call back. The children eventually got back through to her, telling her they were unharmed. She told them to stay put until she got home, but she said they assisted neighbors instead.
The family has been living in a Federal Emergency Management Agency mobile home since around Aug. 1.
Coleman said she’s happy that Rotary and Habitat are helping her and her children with a home of their own, and in their old neighborhood.
“It’s so exciting,” Coleman said. “Everybody has just been incredible. It’s just been incredibly generous of everyone involved.”
Richard Crow, board chairman of Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity, said that including the groundbreaking Wednesday, Joplin Habitat has 13 houses under construction now, working toward a goal of 50 for the year.
RICHARD CROW, Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity board chairman, also promoted the Governor’s Joplin Habitat Challenge on Wednesday. Gov. Jay Nixon in February announced the challenge to build 35 homes this year in partnership with the University of Missouri Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, St. Louis Blues, Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Royals and the NASCAR Kansas Speedway. Nixon’s administration has allocated $3.6 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to buy land and materials for the project.