The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

March 13, 2013

New home for storm victims begins, ends with nod to Orioles

JOPLIN, Mo. — The construction of a home at 2630 S. Wall Ave. started and ended with former Baltimore Orioles players Cal Ripken Jr. and Brooks Robinson.

They are superheroes to homeowner Ed Kunce, who with his wife, Angela, officially took possession of the Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity home Wednesday afternoon after a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Last April, when Ed Kunce, a lifelong Orioles fan, learned that baseball Hall of Famer Ripken would be in Joplin helping with a Habitat for Humanity project, he called his son, Travis, and they drove to the site to say hello and meet him.

That set into motion the Kunces applying for their own Habitat home to replace the 20th Street apartment they lost when it came crashing down around them in the May 2011 tornado.

As partners in the project, Ed and Angela Kunce were required to put in 300 hours of sweat equity and to pay a zero interest, 20-year mortgage. Their work on the home began with the wall raising last October, during which Ed Kunce carried a photo of Ripken in his pocket and Travis Kunce wore his Orioles jersey.

During the Wednesday ribbon-cutting, volunteer Christine Beydler — who hails from Baltimore — had a surprise housewarming gift for them: a framed, autographed portrait of Robinson in uniform that the baseball great signed especially for Ed Kunce.

Habitat Director Scott Clayton also recognized some local superheroes during the ceremony, and they actually showed up wearing capes and masks. Their apparel was a nod to their group’s name, The Justice League, so named because its members work in area branches of justice and law enforcement.

The group’s effort in recovery and rebuilding began with debris removal in the weeks after the storm. Members then decided to raise the $50,000 required by Habitat to sponsor a home and to commit the work hours necessary to make it a reality.

“When we decided to build a house, I knew we’d build a house,” said Jasper County Circuit Judge Gayle Crane, who chose to wear her robe instead of a cape for the ceremony. “It’s been an almost two-year process for us, but the people who are in these kinds of careers are by their very nature very determined and very service-oriented people. I’m not surprised they made it happen.”

The Kunces said during an open house after the ceremony that they had been counting the days until that moment.

“It’s been five months and four days, to be exact,” Ed Kunce said. “It’s such a relief.”

The couple will move in on Saturday.

“We’re ready to move forward in life,” he said.

Coming Sunday

ON SUNDAY, the Globe will publish “If Walls Could Talk,” a special feature that chronicles in words and photos the work by more than 90 volunteers from across the nation who helped in the home’s construction.

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May 2011 Joplin tornado
  • Local new-home construction catches up to previous pace

    After a slow start early in this fiscal year for Joplin, the construction of new houses has resumed at the pace that existed in fiscal year 2013, when permits for new houses averaged more than 16 per month. Since November, the beginning of Joplin’s fiscal year, permits for 118 houses have been issued for a total cost of $12.8 million. The average value has been about $108,000.

    June 11, 2014

  • 052212 unity walk1_72.jpg SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary

    May 22, 2012 1 Photo

  • 060314 Farmers rebuild 1_72.jpg Farmers Insurance writes manual based on experience from Joplin disaster recovery

    Joplin’s housing recovery from the 2011 tornado is one for the books. Jeff Dailey, CEO of Farmers Insurance, announced Tuesday that not only will Farmers Insurance stick with Rebuild Joplin to repair and replace the homes left on the local group’s waiting list, but the company also will kick off a similar recovery effort today for the city of Sea Bright, New Jersey, based on a book it has written to expedite disaster recovery that is based on its experience in Joplin.

    June 3, 2014 2 Photos

  • r052214butterflygarden.jpg New park feature opens on tornado anniversary to encourage healing

    Cunningham Park has become an emotional place for Pamela Praytor. The name of her son, Christopher Lucas, is engraved on a monument that stands in the park in memory of the 161 people who were killed in the May 2011 tornado. “Even though I cry when I come, it’s OK,” she said. “It’s part of the healing.”

    May 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • r051214greenbldgs3.jpg Home, business cited as examples of energy efficiency, strength

    Ramona and Charles “Hugh’’ Shields were not the least bit reluctant on Monday to open their new house in the tornado zone to a bunch of strangers who had a lot of questions. “I used to live in a house where I had to wear two pairs of socks in the winter to keep my feet warm — not anymore,’’ said Ramona Shields. “This house is nice and warm in the winter, and nice and cool in the summer.’’

    May 12, 2014 2 Photos

  • Mercy Health System to receive $23 million FEMA grant

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide Mercy Health System of Joplin with $23 million in public assistance funding by the end of the year. The disaster relief was announced Friday by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.

    April 25, 2014

  • Respond With Love flower.jpg Joplin pays it forward with flowers; residents asked to return bulbs ‘fostered’ for other towns

    Suzan Morang’s front yard bloomed brightly last year from a colorful array of bulbs that she will happily pass on to someone else this year. Morang, 1207 Xenia Court, is a participant in America Responds With Love, a national nonprofit organization that distributes bulbs to disaster-stricken cities.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Creator of Joplin-based ‘Dear World’ exhibit features Boston bombing victims in new work

    The messages written on the skin of some Boston Marathon victims may be different, but Joplin residents will recognize the handwriting. Robert X. Fogarty, the creator of the “Dear World: From Joplin with Love” exhibit, took his signature style of photography and inspiration to Boston. Fogarty traveled to Joplin in 2011 and took pictures of community members with inspirational messages written on their bodies in black ink.

    April 21, 2014

  • r041414wildwood.jpg Opening of nursing home another recovery milestone

    Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first. “I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.” Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Joplin Redevelopment Corp. preparing for first property sale

    The first sale of property from the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. to Wallace Bajjali Development Partners is scheduled for May 16. The city staff will be working to prepare for that sale, it was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting of the JRC.

    April 9, 2014

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