Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
on-site 'Service Service' highlights long-term recovery
Be part of something BIG at General Assembly!
Week of Compassion and the General Assembly Local Missions Team are working with Help Build Hope to frame a house for survivors of the devastating tornadoes that hit western Kentucky in 2021. Sunday morning (July 30), we will have a brief worship service then will frame a house right in the Exhibit Hall! Come work and pray with other volunteers as we help one family get closer to moving home.
As Disciples are well aware, on December 10, 2021, multiple counties across western Kentucky were hit by a mile-wide EF4 long-track tornado, leaving a massive path of destruction, and thousands of Kentuckians homeless. Disciples immediately responded through Week of Compassion and our many Kentucky West Area congregations, offering immediate support alongside Regional leaders and ecumenical partners, and engaging established relationships to create long-term commitment for recovery and rebuilding.
In the nearly 18 months since that event, Week of Compassion has partnered with Long-Term Recovery Groups to get communities stabilized and on their way to recovery. Volunteer referrals and grant funding are helping move recovery forward in multiple counties - all of whom have taken unique approaches to meet the needs in their contexts.
In Hopkins County (Dawson Springs), recent projects have included pouring foundations, replacing siding, building accessible ramps and secure decks, providing driveways to repaired or new homes, replacing windows and bathroom fixtures - all moving survivors one step closer to recovery. Melinda Grace with Hopkins County LTRG says,
“In this stage of recovery, we work with clients who are in different phases of their return to the new normal. [Week of Compassion funds] give us the ability to purchase building materials for individuals when volunteers are on the site to finish a project, assistance in purchasing a vehicle that was destroyed in the tornado, last minute insulation requirement by inspector before move-in, finishing out bathroom to allow new homeowner to move from FEMA trailer before deadline…”
In Graves County (Mayfield), their LTRG noticed an issue impacting the largest group of survivors in their area: No organization wanted to fund rebuild of rental properties, despite the fact that more than 70% of the home damage in the county was to rental housing. Record inflation and skyrocketing costs for building materials made repair costly, so many landlords who had purchased homes as foreclosures and vastly under-insured them simply left. Renters had no affordable options available and were being priced out of the ability to recover well.
With some strategic thinking and creative partnerships, Mayfield Graves County LTRG has created the A New Lease on Life program, placing displaced renters into permanent housing, not through new construction, but using partners, volunteers, and donated items to repair and improve existing vacant homes throughout the community. The LTRG describes the program:
“Survivors will be allowed to lease the property at a significant discount to market rate [while they] complete classes in home ownership and financial management. They must also be current on all payments and utilities and have properly maintained the home and property. After a year, survivors will be allowed to execute a purchase option. This option will be extended if they need additional time to acquire a home loan. The LTRG will sell the home to the survivor at our purchase price plus the cost of any capital improvements not covered by partner agencies or donated materials. This would allow a survivor to purchase the home far below market value.”
Week of Compassion started as a financial sponsor of A New Lease on Life, and is now a full sponsor, which includes coordinating the volunteer work to complete repairs for a home in the program. Volunteers will begin work over 3 weeks this summer, and registration will open soon for teams to work through the fall.
Since December 2021, Disciples have been praying, giving, and working to support tornado-affected communities in western Kentucky. And now, on July 30, as part of General Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky, Disciples can be up close and personal with this widespread recovery effort :
HELP BUILD HOPE: Framing a House for Tornado Survivors
Convention Center Exhibit Hall (3rd floor)
Sunday, July 30th | 8:00am – 12:00pm
Help Build Hope welcomes volunteers 5 years and up, all skill levels and abilities.
(Volunteers will also be needed to help clean the space at the end of the build
and to load panels onto a truck Tuesday evening – email us for more information.)
After the house is framed, we encourage everyone to come by, walk through the house, and write words of blessing, prayers, and scripture on the framed walls.
We look forward to Disciples - through service, prayer, and generosity - continuing the important work of connection, integrity, and accompaniment for our neighbors in western Kentucky.
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