WANDA ENGLISH BURNETT PHOTO
The above left photo shows the field now cleaned with just one of the eight new homes that are being built in the town after the tornado left the devastation in that same field shown in the above right photo, which also showcases the Lowell Jones property that was completely demolished from the twister. Lowell and his wife, Marlene, were not home at the time, which is what possibly saved their lives.
WANDA ENGLISH BURNETT PHOTO
In the photo to the left, a group, Brethern Disaster Ministries from Pennsylvania, swooped in on their first day at work this week and finished this roof before the rain came in on Tuesday. They will have groups rotating in and out and helping the construction team for the next several months.
The tornado that ripped trees up by their roots, shattered homes, and claimed lives in the Town of Holton on March 2, 2012, did not take away the spirit of those who still live there.
The loss of now three lives can never be minimized and those lives will forever be remembered in the hearts of those who knew them. They are: Ronnie Pickett, Victor Armando Hernandez Carranza and Ted Tolbert, who died 11 months after the tornado of injuries he received.
"I never knew what lonely was," Pickett's widow, Sheryle told The Versailles Republican last week as tears ran down her face as she reflected on the past year. She shared her husband with his many passions that of serving his community through various venues such as being a volunteer firefighter, rescue worker and more. She was with him as much as possible even through those times volunteering herself to "help him out." She said she would complain about being lonely then, but, now she knows what it truly is like.
Lost in the tornado along with Pickett were two little dachshund rescue dogs, belonging to Sheryle. Ronnie's dog, Bear, somehow survived the ordeal and was found several houses away, sore, and matted, but alive.
Sheryle has finally been able to adopt a new rescue dachshund, Noelle, and as she explains it, "she has a true dog's life!"
When people talk about "picking up the pieces" of ones life, Sheryle never dreamed she would be literally doing so. There were things found in the field where the tornado tore through that mean the world to her such as pearls given to her by her late husband.
The other two deaths were also from being on that same stretch of Versailles Street in Holton. Many in the town had taken shelter in the Holton Christian Church basement, which is all that saved their lives. "We wouldn't be here now," Vicky Patrick told The Versailles Republican the day after the tornado came through. Evidence was seen when their home's walls were stripped, baring their belongings, what was left of them, for the world to see.
But, the people of Holton are resilient. They are strong and with the help of "hundreds, even thousands" of volunteers according to Pastor Bob McCreary, they are picking up the pieces, adding some new ones, and getting on with their lives.
On Monday of this week before the rains came down, a group from the Brethern Disaster Ministries out of Pennsylvania, were frantically nailing down the roof on one of the eight homes that are being built for the people at Holton.
According to Darin Kroger, construction manager for the Holton Long Term Recovery Group, eight homes have been donated through Crossroads Missions, out of Louisville, KY. Their motto is Help Build Hope.
Hope is something that gets thin when waiting for a place to live, but the eight displaced families will be getting a brand new home when it's all said and done.
While the wall kits of the homes were donated and brought in on semis, the labor was and is needed to construct the homes. "We have had about 95% volunteer labor," Kroger noted. He said of course grant money and donations have covered materials and that small percentage of skilled labor they couldn't get donated.
Each day that the weather cooperates, you can see progress in the town. Kroger said there are multiple smaller projects where repairs are being done throughout the town. He noted that the Southeastern Indiana Regional Planning Commission and Mary McCarty in particular, have been a big boost to those in need in Holton.
Volunteers have been local, such as the Cavehill Church of God, who took one complete home as their project and are working toward getting it turn-key finished under the direction of local contractor, Greg Fisk. (See more about this group in a related article in today's paper). But, volunteers have come from as far away as Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, and now Pennsylvania. Workers are still needed for both skilled and unskilled jobs. Those interested in helping get people back in a home can call 689-1300.
Agencies whisked into town the weekend and week after the deadly twister. They were emergency disaster agencies, who did the job they are designed to do, and then they left as they should have. Then the reality set in. Holton residents were still in dire need. This is the job now of the Holton Long Term Recovery Group, where a multitude of agencies help out. It is an amazing and complicated process, but the end result will see lots of smiles when homes are completed.
Kroger said he "hopes" to see these projects well underway and even completed by July of this year. What people don't realize when rebuilding is in progress, there are many variables that can slow and sometimes even halt, the process. But, Kroger remains hopeful and extremely grateful to the many groups who have come through to help out. "People have installed electric, built cabinets, given money, donated time, there's no way to list them all," he noted.
Cynthia Melton, who is the case manager for the Holton Long Term Recovery Group, agreed with Kroger, saying all the churches and people who have, and continue, to bring in food has just been overwhelming. "It's really something," she noted.
Over 100 cases (paperwork files) of people having storm damage have been opened through the Long Term Recovery Group. Others had insurance, and for the most part, those claims have been settled, allowing people to rebuild more quickly than some who did not have insurance. On the other hand, there are cases of claims that the homeowner's insurance has not been forthcoming and one particular home is situated on the east end of town. A big tarp on one side of the Kenny Beeman home says Erie Insurance one year later???
Friends had to help him recently put another tarp on it when the original one they had was torn up in high winds that came through. Holton residents pitch in to help each other with many being longtime friends who even went to the school together that was finally completely demolished due to the tornado.