When Bev Hammons rolls her wheelchair across the threshold of her new home near Birmingham, Alabama, this month, she’ll literally be moving from the old to the new.
The house that Hammons shares with her sister Jan Perkins is being built by volunteers from Orland Park CRC through CRWRC’s Disaster Response Services (DRS). It include the front steps from her previous home, destroyed by one of the tornadoes that flattened communities in six American states last April.
“The front steps were about all that was left of it,” Perkins says. A hundred yards from the home is an even more somber monument to the tornado’s destruction. Standing near the ruined foundation of her mother and brother’s house are two crosses and an American flag: her loved ones were not as fortunate.
When the tornado hit, Bev and Jan didn’t have time to get Bev's wheelchair into the basement of the ranch-style home. “We lay on the floor in the hallway and prayed,” Hammons says. The raging wind lifted the entire house off of its foundation and dropped it about ten feet away, causing most of the house to fall into the basement, and the bit of floor where the women were laying to land on solid ground.
“If we had made it to the basement,” Hammons says, “we would have been killed. As it was, one of the hallway walls fell partly on top of us like a lean-to, protecting us from everything that was swirling through the air around us. We felt God’s hand keeping us safe and holding the flying debris away from us.” They were devastated a few moments later when they found that their mother and brother did not survive.
Since that day in April 2011, the sisters have been living in a trailer on the property. In about five week’s time, 52 Orland Park CRC volunteers wearing green CRWRC-DRS t-shirts will swarm over the construction site nearby. They are working with the two sisters to build a home with the wheelchair accommodations Bev needs since she had a stroke in 2009.
The plans include navigable bathroom and porch with room for the family’s dogs as well as preparation for the construction of a “safe room” that is tornado-resistant and quickly accessible for Bev in case of another storm.
CRWRC-DRS Groups Program manager, Art Opperwall, says Orland Park CRC has sent volunteer groups to work sites around North America to assist disaster survivors each year for nearly ten years.
“In all, our volunteers will give more than 2,000 hours of their time to help Ms. Perkins get into her new home this month,” says Cindy Vander Laan, Orland Park’s volunteer coordinator. “We’ve been especially blessed to serve Ms. Perkins this year—our whole congregation gets behind our volunteer projects with CRWRC. We’ve learned that when we do a construction project it’s really God’s house, and he’s just letting us build it.”