Church plays major role in rebuilding tornado-ravaged Clark County towns
On Tuesday, I spent the day in Henryville and it is a far different place since the last time I was there almost two months ago. Everyone knows about the tornado outbreak of March 2nd. It killed 13 Hoosiers, and caused millions of dollars in damage across southern Indiana. Henryville was at the center of it. Virtually every building in town was either toppled or had significant damage. You can still see it, no matter which direction in which you look.
To drive through Henryville today, you can see progress. The school is well on its way to being repaired. The West Clark School Corporation plans to re-open in time for the next school year. Barring anything unforseen, they ought to make it. Much of the debris that littered the area two months ago is cleaned up, but re-building has been slow. Contractors are stretched thin and homeowners are still trying to settle up with their insurance companies. In most cases, work has been spotty - baby steps toward making people whole again.
WHAT YOU WON'T SEE
What you do not see in Henryville right now are reporters. They have mostly gone back to covering everyday news -- elections, school boards, and road construction. The construction in Henryville is not normally on their radar. But, as the interest of outsiders wanes, a local church is making a commitment for the long term.
The Henryville Community Church began serving three hot meals a day the day after the tornado outbreak. Volunteers haven't stopped. They say they won't stop for at least two years.
Volunteeer Larry Snyder is commited to the vision: "I grew up here all my life", he said. "Graduated from high school in Henryville, and I just enjoy doing it. I figure I'm helping my town."
But the church's commitment to help goes beyond food to even more basic necessities of life. Almost half of the people in Clark County own their homes free and clear. Many have been passed down through family members. Since they are not required to have mortgages, they are not required to have insurance. Many of them consider that a luxury they can't afford.
The bottom line is that about 40 percent of the homes destroyed by the tornadoes do not have an insurance company backing them up. The church, and its Pastor Rich Creek, are making another two-year commitment to build 100 homes from the ground up and to coordinate the volunteer help that still arrives in town daily.
They sent a group of people from a New Hampshire church to Marysville to help clean debris before a building project could begin. John Lacourse drove 21 hours to go to work.
"We're just out here because we care, we want people to know we love them, we want them to know that the Lord loves them," John said, "And we're not afraid to travel any distance or to do what it takes to show them that love."
To gather the material for 100 houses, the church made a first-of-its-kind deal with Lowe's. They set up what is essentially a bridal registry with a list of building materials they need. Anyone can go online and donate a door, a window, a sump pump - anything that goes into a basic house. Habitat for Humanity is on board to help organize the labor.
Lowe's will transport all of the material from Indianapolis for free for storage in Henryville until it's needed. Pastor Cheek said, "People want to make specific donations, not just give money to some organization. We want to give them the ability to do that."
WORK GOES ON
You may not hear about it every day anymore, but the people in southern Indiana are still living with the damage of that horrible day in March when tornadoes reached down from the clouds. Know that there are still good folks on the ground, a major church, and volunteers still giving hope in an area where people have felt hopeless since the afternoon of March 2nd.