10 families displaced by Ind. tornado get homes

Associated Press
Updated 12/17/2012 9:41 AM

HENRYVILLE, Ind. -- Saturday was an emotional, yet joyful day for Danielle Guthrie, when Habitat for Humanity handed her the keys to her new house in Henryville.

"When they called to approve me, I was surprised. It was amazing," Guthrie said through tears while accepting the keys. "Thank you to all of the sponsors and for reaching out. It's overwhelming, and there's no way to really describe it."

Since the March 2 tornadoes, Guthrie and her young daughter stayed with her grandparents, and moving into her home before Christmas is a great gift.

"We're very excited. We need to get in, as we've been without a house since March. Her (daughter) and I are ready to get back on feet, move in and enjoy it," said Guthrie.

Nine other families received house keys on Saturday when Habitat for Humanity held its Raise the Roof Over Southern Indiana Blitz Build 2012 at First Baptist Church in Henryville. Because of multiple partnerships and 1,500 volunteers, homes were built and families get to return to a home after the devastating EF-4 tornado.

"This could not be done without the volunteers. Today, we recognize those hard workers, and we celebrate the things we accomplished together," said Gina Leckron, director of Habitat for Humanity of Indiana. "We like to share the experience of Habitat for Humanity and helping one family at a time make the dream of home ownership come true. We mobilized as a community to make it happen."

Leckron told the News and Tribune that in the beginning, the source of funding was unknown, but partners stepped forward and worked together, and the New Albany affiliate for Habitat for Humanity lead the rebuilding effort. Also, organizations such as the Ogle Foundation and the IN Conference of the United Methodist Church came forward. In addition, Cummins Inc. provided labor and Lowe's of Clarksville contributed to the Raise the Roof Over Southern Indiana.

With 250 volunteers on-site each day, the construction for the 10 houses began Oct. 8. State Rep. Ed Clere explained within a week of the construction, the houses had foundations.

"Everything turned out well. This was a broad-based community effort with many people helping," said Clere.

He explained initially the challenge was finding a suitable place to build the homes because the goal was to construct the houses together in a location with established utilities and existing construction. Twin Oaks Subdivision became the ideal place.

Leckron explained that Habitat for Humanity houses are sold to families and the mortgage payments are interest free. It's also a program that gives back.

"They pay the mortgage payments to Habitat for Humanity and we use that to fund this mission going forward. It's a great way to pay it forward. The house payment helps others, and the homeowners take pride," said Leckron.

"We turn the money around to build more homes. Out of this disaster came the opportunity to help more families," said Clere, R-New Albany, who also is a real estate agent.

Raise the Roofs Over Southern Indiana served as an afternoon of thanks and bringing the community together.

"I have never been prouder to call this region my home. I heard others say that, too, and it shows who we are as people," said Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind. "It shows that people still have time to stop and care and offer compassion and good wishes. I am proud of all of you and I am proud of this community. During the disaster, a lot of good came out of it."

Carolyn King, executive director of March2Recovery, explained that the goal is to place five more families into new homes by Christmas. However, there are still 30 to 35 families still without a home and rebuilding will likely continue through summer.

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