GREENSBURG, Kan. - What is the most important contribution the Federal Emergency Management Agency made in Greensburg?
No debate, if you believe Greensburg Unified School District 422 superintendent Darin Headrick.
"The number one thing FEMA did was temporary housing, without question," he said.
Keep in mind the school district Headrick leads received millions of dollars in FEMA assistance after the May 4 tornado which obliterated the town - and every single school structure. But his logic is simple.
"If students and their families can't live here, well …," Headrick said, his voice trailing off.
With an astonishing 95 percent of the community's homes completely destroyed, the housing crisis was acute - and immediate.
Those who haven't been to this southwest Kansas town might not completely appreciate how far Greensburg residents had to travel to find housing resources. Hundreds temporarily relocated 30 miles away or further, as the small communities close by quickly had no rental housing left to offer.
But within days, FEMA had placed the first family in temporary housing, as well as providing payments for rental assistance. Within weeks, FEMA and its federal and contractual partners had developed a mobile home group site - named Keller Estates -- on the southeast edge of town.
Keller Estates remains home to hundreds of residents as they rebuild on their properties or seek other options.
Following are two individual stories of families who lived or are living at the Keller site.
* * *
"FEMA saved our bacon," said resident Jerry Little. "I just have no idea what we would have done if they hadn't been here."
Little says this from the comfort of his brand new, spacious four-bedroom, two-story home with his wife Kristi and three sons present. But memories of nearly being homeless after losing his housing option in Pratt are still fresh.
"Let's just say we thought we had our (temporary) housing situation all figured out," he said, "and then suddenly the rug was pulled out from underneath us."
About to lose their "gift" housing in a town 32 miles away from where they wanted to rebuild, the situation seemed dire.
"But we called FEMA and they were able to quickly get us into a mobile home," Kristi Little said. "We thought, 'We have three boys, two dogs and two cats. How is FEMA going to (be able to) accommodate us?'
"But they did, and quickly."
Jerry Little was impressed that the mobile home community had security, making his family feel safe.
"(Security) was very important to us," he said. "You just want that feeling that, when you're home, you're safe."
FEMA had called the Little family several times to see if they needed housing assistance, Kristi said, and she would politely tell them they were fine.
"We just didn't think we were going to need it," she said. "We were wrong.
"It was hard for us, because we've never had to ask for help … but we had to have a place to live."
* * *
Mark and Dana Trummel know a thing or two about living in temporary quarters.
For years, they ran a business harvesting wheat throughout long, sweltering Midwestern summer days.
"We've lived in a travel trailer for months at a time before," Dana Trummel said, laughing at the memory. "We know how to rough it."
So when a travel trailer was offered to them through a family friend, they made themselves at home in it in the nearby community of Haviland.
Soon, however, Mark Trummel knew a more long-term solution was going to be required.
"I could see big problems coming with winter in the travel trailer," he said. "Especially with the kind of winters we get around here."
Committed to rebuilding in the community where they had grown up and lived most of their 25-year marriage, the Trummels contacted FEMA about acquiring a mobile home.
"We both live and work here," Dana Trummel said, "so it just made sense."
They continue to live at Keller Estates, but are nearly done rebuilding after first helping their daughter and her family finish their rebuilt home.
But in the meantime, home is where you hang your hat.
"It's our home," Mark Trummel said while sitting on the couch of his FEMA mobile home, "and we are happy to have it.
"If this (mobile home) hadn't been available, we don't know what we would have done."