HENRYVILLE, Ind. – Hoosier United Methodists joined with corporations and other groups Oct. 8 to kick-off work with Habitat for Humanity of Indiana’s million dollar “Raise the Roof Over Southern Indiana” Blitz Build project in Henryville’s southside Twin Oaks subdivision.
The houses are for survivors whose homes were destroyed by the deadly March 2 tornadoes that ripped through small southern Indiana towns and communities in a 40-mile path of destruction.
Habitat gave Indiana United Methodist Bishop Mike Coyner the honor of leading the first-day devotions for the more than 250 volunteers, observers and reporters from around the state and across the nation that were on hand to begin framing the ten houses.
In his remarks, given in a brightly colored yellow-and-white tent, under cold cloudy skies shortly after 8 a.m., Coyner used the story of Jesus forgiving and healing the paralyzed man told in the second chapter of Mark’s Gospel.
He said according to Scripture, when Jesus saw the faith of the four men who brought the paralyzed man, he forgave and healed him.
Coyner then asked the volunteers, “Have you ever been carried by faith?” He then related a time in his own life when he and his wife Marsha were young adults and Marsha became very ill. He said, we were carried by the faith of others to survive our ordeal.
“You are the folks who are carrying others in faith today,” he said.
Following a prayer for health, safety and thanks, the volunteers went with their families to one of the ten houses ready to lift outer walls into place.
Besides Hoosiers, Habitat volunteers also came from California, Maine, Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin and other states.
Gina Leckron, state director of Habitat of Humanity of Indiana, will continue to coordinate the build through her office in downtown Indianapolis. She said building all the homes on previously vacant lots in a single subdivision allowed Habitat to pool materials and other resources at one location.
She went on to say that the homes are designed to withstand winds of up to 140 miles-per-hour. Standard homes in Indiana are only built to withstand winds of 90 miles-per-hour.
Hoosier United Methodists sponsored two houses with a $100,000 contribution from the Indiana Conference Disaster Response Fund. Other major sponsors included Home Improvement, the Ogle Foundation, Cummins, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, and the state builders and bankers associations. Habitat still seeks a sponsor for the tenth house.
Colleen Breslin, an AmeriCorps volunteer helping manage hundreds of volunteers during the build has been doing site preparation in the subdivision for a month and will remain at the site through November putting on the finishing touches.
“We’ll be here until Nov. 2, so we have another three weeks after the Blitz week,” said Breslin, of Philadelphia.
Coyner, the Rev. LeKisha Reed, associate director of Mission and Advocacy for the Indiana Conference, the Rev. David Powell, coordinator of the Indiana Conference Disaster Response Team and more than 30 other United Methodists, became acquainted with the Vicky Guernsey, and Anthony and Melissa Nasby families of Henryville as the building of their houses began.
Vicky Guernsey, mother of three girls told reporters, “It’s overwhelming; it’s amazing! With every step of this I’ve said ‘oh this is too good to be true’ and then they put the sign up front and of course I took a picture of it, and yeah, it’s real!”
Anthony Nasby said, “I got to drive a nail in the first wall we put up, so that was great.”
His wife Melissa commented, “Yeah, it’s great to be able to work on our home and know what goes into putting a house together.”
They’re also putting their lives back together with their four children.
“My oldest son just got out of school 10 minutes before the tornado hit. He got home just in time,” Anthony Nasby said.
The Guernsey and Nasby families and the other eight families are purchasing their homes interest-free from Habitat – and they’re all putting in 200 hours of “sweat equity” each to help build their homes.
The goal of the project is to have all the families moved into their new homes by mid-December making their new homes quite the Christmas present.
Help is still needed to provide 200 volunteers per day from now through the second week of December. Volunteers over the age of 18 are welcome to volunteer their time by registering online at www.habitatindiana.org/disaster-recovery/volunteer. Information about inexpensive room and board while staying in Henryville is available at www.inumc.org/volunteer.
Information from WLKY and the Louisville Courier-Journal was used in this story.
Homeowners Anthony and Melissa Nasby, another family sponsored by Indiana United Methodists, with Bishop Coyner on the site of their home in Henryville.
“It’s overwhelming; it’s amazing!”
– Vicky Guernsey
LeKisha Reed, associate director of Mission and Advocacy for the Indiana Conference (left), and David Powell, Indiana Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, with homeowner Vicky Guernsey.