Faith-based humanitarian organization Convoy of Hope is giving confidence and a fresh start to a group of people in Joplin, Mo., who have not had a place to call home since a tornado ripped through their city nearly a year ago.
A groundbreaking ceremony to build half a dozen storm-resilient, "green" homes for families who lost their homes in the tornado last year took place on Monday.
Jeff Nene, senior director of Public Relations for Convoy, told The Christian Post that the ceremony had a turnout of 50-75 people and the six new homeowners got to turn the first bit of dirt for the ceremony.
He said it "cast a spotlight on what is going on in Joplin, [but there is] still so much more to do" as the town is still largely under construction.
The aid organization is partnering with Global Green Building, Joyce Meyer Ministries–Hand of Hope, Project Safe Home and T.F. Concrete Forming Systems to construct homes that emphasize protections against strong winds and promote environmental efficiencies.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, are also providing expertise on other "resilient" constructions. These new high-tech, low-energy buildings are specially designed with 4-inch reinforced concrete walls and the houses are built to withstand winds up to 200 mph, according to Nene.
Karen Benson, director of global disaster response for Convoy of Hope, said on the group's website that the new homeowners are set to move in by May 22, 2012 – the anniversary of the tornado.
"We've signed six contracts and there are six to ten more families going through the initial process," she reported. "We hope to be working on all of the buildings by spring."
The EF5 tornado that devastated Joplin was one of America's deadliest. It killed 160 people and destroyed nearly 7,000 homes.
Jackie Allen and her 9-year-old son Dylan lost nearly everything. Allen's mother passed away just months before the tornado hit, leaving Allen the home she and Dylan lived in, which was quickly demolished by the storm.
"I had just paid off the home before the storm hit," said Allen. "I hadn't yet had a chance to get insurance and found myself homeless for the first time in my life." With the help of Convoy of Hope, Allen's new home will be greener and more storm-resistant than their prior home, and will be completed just in time for the mother-son pair to move in before the one-year anniversary of the tornado.
Several months ago, ABC's Extreme Makeover Home Edition came to Joplin and built seven homes in seven days. Through a partnership with them, Convoy of Hope was able to announce on the show their $ 1 million dollar Extreme Hope Fund which is going toward building these houses.
There was a huge outpouring in the days and weeks following the tornado from aid organizations. But even though the news cameras are gone, there are still organizations like Convoy of Hope working in Joplin along with the faith-community and many churches. Nene said that while these are all positive things, there is "still so much more to do."
Convoy of Hope is a faith-based organization with a passion to feed the world through international children's feeding initiatives as well as disaster response, partner resourcing and U.S. community outreaches. Since 1994, Convoy of Hope, a Charity Navigator Four Star Award winner, has helped more than 50 million people in some 100 countries and has given away more than $254 million wholesale value in food and supplies.