Grand County volunteers help Kansas tornado victims this week
April 21, 2008
Eight members of the Church of the Eternal Hills are heading to tornado-torn Kansas to help rebuild Greensburg.
When 19 level 5 tornadoes hurled through that state nearly a year ago, Bill Tucker and Diane Fisher of Winter Park saw the devastation in the news.
Shortly thereafter, they were on their way to Greensburg, where a town 1,400 residents once called home was completely leveled. Few homes survived the storm, and those that did were severely damaged from torrential rains through blown-out window spaces. The Main Street business district was reduced to rubble.
The only remaining commerce buildings that stood were the grain elevator and the courthouse, according to reports.
The tornado claimed 12 victims in Greensburg, as well as its grade school, high school, city hall, hospital, water tower, fire station and all its stores.
An aerial view of the town in the wake of the 2-mile wide, 20 mile-long force of nature resembled a bombed war zone.
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After the disaster, the National Guard closed off the town, so Tucker and Fisher helped where they could on its outskirts.
About 20 miles from the town, they witnessed a family locate their washing machine in a stand of trees one-fourth mile from their destroyed farmstead.
Around Memorial weekend, when other Americans were barbecuing hotdogs or hosting a garage sale, Tucker and Fisher returned to Greensburg to lend a hand.
There would be no parade in the town; people were locating belongings in fields and mourning the livelihoods they once had.
But Tucker took note of the community’s resilience. “We never heard the ‘poor me’s,'” he said.
Since then, the couple has been organizing another trip to Greensburg through their Tabernash church. Insurance settlements for many of the residents do not cover the cost to rebuild, so the community is seeking help through volunteer labor, Tucker said.
Local retirees, most of whom have been involved with the Grand County Habitat for Humanity organization, have packed their tools and are on their way. They will stay in Pratt, Kan., where the hardware store closest to Greensburg is located.
The team is well equipped and experienced in building. Congregation members Dave and Marcia Walker have been involved with Habitat for Humanity for 15 years in Fort Worth, Texas, and Grand County. Mel and Mary Lou Black, who are also devoting their week to help with home repairs on some and the rebuilding of three or four other homes in Greensburg, are not new to disaster zones. The couple has made several trips to U.S. communities in need of relief due to natural disasters.
And Bud Crawford, another trip member, is a retired contractor who was one of two builders involved in construction of the Church of Eternal Hills.
“I’ve always wanted to go on a mission trip,” said Susan Ellis, a local Habitat volunteer who is leaving the beginning of this week to make the 500-mile trip. “This is close to home, and very worthwhile.”
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