By Ryan Richardson
Thanks to volunteers from Rebuild Joplin, Bobby Burton has been able to call a house that has been in his family for more than 60 years home again.
Burton and several members of the Rebuild Joplin team gathered for a housewarming ceremony Tuesday at the house that was severely damaged in the May 22, 2011, tornado. He has been back in the home at 1016 W. 19th St. since about Christmas. Burton said he also lost most of his possessions in the storm that knocked trees onto the house and flooded it with rain.
“Three of the rooms were completely black from the mold that had grown from all of the rain that had come through the house,” Burton said during the ceremony. “The property was damaged so bad that I thought it was impossible to save anything here.”
Burton was happy to be proved wrong. He spent more than seven months at different hotels in the area as volunteers from the Rebuild Joplin team put in close to 3,000 hours rebuilding his house.
Doreen Finnie, Rebuild Joplin development director, said the effort has become commonplace for the nonprofit organization.
“We have worked so hard for this day to come because our mission is to bring everyone home,” Finnie said during Tuesday’s ceremony. “We basically are putting the manual together of our experiences in organizing volunteers to get a community back together.”
She said Rebuild Joplin has reconstructed 49 houses that were destroyed by the 2011 tornado, and the organization has four more slated for similar ceremonies in the next two weeks.
While Burton did not have much when he first moved back in, he was presented with a Christmas tree that was decorated by volunteers from the Rebuild Joplin team. He plans to keep the tree up for his first year in his new home.
“I keep the tree up to remember their work and to keep that spirit here for the first year,” Burton said. “You can’t imagine how thankful a person is when they truly need help and these people gave so much to me.”
DOREEN FINNIE, Rebuild Joplin development director, said the organization plans to reconstruct about 100 more homes.