BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – It could easily have been mistaken for an open house held by a real estate agent for a new listing. Cars were parked on both sides of the street and people milled about outside. The front and back doors were wide open, both for ventilation and to make it easier for the steady stream of visitors to go inside and take a look.
But this wasn’t about the sale of a house.
The first home completed by the Mennonite Disaster Service after the devastating April storms and tornadoes, in the town of Phil Campbell, was dedicated during a brief ceremony on June 30. A family of five was moving into the three-bedroom home.
Voluntary agencies and faith-based groups have provided debris cleanup teams, chainsaw crews, childcare, laundry services, tree removal, home repairs, gutting, tarping, emotional/spiritual assistance and more than a million meals prepared and served. Now they are building houses.
According to Michael Dillaber, president of Alabama Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, this was an accelerated rebuilding pilot project, conceived and approved by the Alabama Housing Task Force and supported by the Alabama VOAD. He said the new home was made possible due to the cooperation of the Lutheran Ministries of Alabama, which handled case management; Christian Reformed World Relief, which handled assessment; and the Mennonites, who provided funding and the actual construction.
“As far as I know, it’s the first in the state,” Dillaber said. “It’s a milestone.”
Tim Haney, First Baptist Church pastor, offered the blessings. The mayor and police chief joined him for photos with the family.
Ron Tunney, president of Lutheran Ministries of Alabama, shared a story after the dedication. He said that the family lost everything they owned in the disaster, but were heartened when a photo of their 7-year-old daughter was found 140 miles away in Tullahoma, Tenn. and miraculously found its way back to them when it was returned to Alabama by the Trinity Lutheran Church there. He said he was recently given two handmade quilts by the Trinity Lutheran Church to present to the family moving into the first completed home. He said that the church did not know that the family receiving the quilts was the same family that received the recovered photo.
More homes are in the process of being built in Phil Campbell.
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