The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 16, 2012

Tornado victims heading home thanks to efforts of volunteers

By Susan Redden

JOPLIN, Mo. — Volunteers who built Misty Gamble’s new house didn’t stop there.

One group bought the family a kitchen table, another added a backyard play set for her two sons, while others bought them a bicycle, a tricycle and a basketball goal.

Still more volunteers — mostly from church groups working with Samaritan’s Purse — helped with the construction of a hall tree made of bricks from the home of Gamble’s father, who died of cancer a year before the May 22 tornado.

Gamble’s new home is at 2408 S. Willard Ave., where the home of her father, Terrence Gamble, once stood and where she lived when she was caring for him during his illness. The bricks are from a fireplace, which was in a room where he spent most of his time, Gamble said.

“We tried to save the fireplace, but when we couldn’t, we decided on this,” said Stephen Bergen, a Samaritan’s Purse case manager. “At one point, we had six or eight people sitting around and cleaning bricks.”

Final touches are being added to Gamble’s house, and she will join Samaritan’s Purse volunteers and others for a dedication ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday. Soon after, she will move in with sons Dylan, 9, and River, 2.

The completed house is among dozens that have been finished as charitable organizations and volunteers have poured into Joplin since the tornado. A Globe sampling of some of the groups at work in Joplin counted nearly 100 new homes built, under construction or in the planning stages, plus more than 100 other homes that volunteers have repaired.

Samaritan’s Purse has finished two other homes started by other groups and has repaired six others that had extensive tornado damage.

“And we have 12 others in various stages of construction and planning,” said Karina Peterson, media relations coordinator for Samaritan’s Purse. “We’re still accepting applications from people who need housing.”

Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri has repaired more than 100 homes, completed four new homes and has seven others nearing completion, said Sarah Lewis, a spokeswoman for the charity.

Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity has 16 homes under construction and 35 more in the planning stages, according to Scott Clayton, executive director.

A Joplin woman next Tuesday will get the keys to her new disaster-resistant home at 2528 S. Bird Ave. that was built by Convoy of Hope. The group has five other homes under construction and six more planned.

Gamble said she and her sons are living in a rental house, and that she is looking forward to the extra space that will come with her new three-bedroom, two-bathroom home. She said she is especially looking forward to the feeling of safety she knows she will have, since a central bathroom in the home is built as a safe room.

She and her sons were not at home when the tornado struck, but they all are afraid of storms now.

Gamble said her sons love the house and are eager to move in.

“When they come over here, they don’t want to leave,” she said.

Gamble said she and her sons made a steppingstone with the boys’ handprints to give to the volunteers who finished her house. Since being laid off at EaglePicher Industries, she has been able to spend time at the house and personally thank many of the volunteers. She also wrote a letter to express her appreciation and was able to give copies to some, but not all, of the groups that worked on her home.

To the volunteers

“YOU ALL ARE BLESSINGS and there are no words to explain how much we appreciate all your love, devotion and hard work. You came here as complete strangers, and put your hearts and souls into building our home. It has been a great experience meeting all of you wonderful people. To us you are Angels and emotionally and physically have been the stepping stones to getting our lives back to normal — actually, even better than normal.”