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Group rebuilds Joplin couple's home

Group rebuilds Joplin couple's home

June 16th, 2011 by The Joplin Globe, via The Associated Press Member Exchange in News

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - At 2:25 p.m. Tuesday, the guttering was going up. Furniture was sitting on the sidewalk. Paint was still being applied to the front porch.

At least the flowers had been planted, and the landscaping was finished.

Jody Herrington-Gettys, who was leading the effort to rebuild the home of John and Debbie Lacey, used a public-address system to keep things moving.

"They'll be here in 55 minutes," she announced. "I need someone to take responsibility for cleaning off this front porch."

A few seconds later, she said: "Stephanie, can you come to the kitchen with your tool belt?"

A few seconds after that, she said: "Do we have a dishwasher installer here? Surely with all of these Home Depot people here, there's someone who can install a dishwasher."

Two men walked forward.

"We also need a microwave installer," she said.

Two more men walked forward.

"Can I get a hammer up here please?" she said.

With each passing minute, the pace quickened in anticipation of the arrival of the Laceys, who did not know their home was being rebuilt and refurnished by Operation Blessing International with the help of nearly 400 Home Depot volunteers and volunteers with the Virginia Evangelizing Fellowship.

The Laceys did not have insurance to cover their loss. Their house was still standing after the May 22 tornado, but it was badly damaged. Many of the houses around their house were destroyed. Some have already been bulldozed.

John Lacey was in his pickup at the back of the house when the tornado struck. He crawled to the vehicle's floorboard and held on as the vehicle was bounced up and down. Debbie Lacey had been standing at the back door of her home, telling her husband to come inside. She fell to the porch floor. Part of the roof fell on her. Her sister said a washer and dryer in that room probably saved her life by shielding her from the flying debris.

John Lacey, a former maintenance worker for the Missouri Department of Transportation, was disabled more than a decade ago in a roadside accident at Aurora in which a co-worker was killed. His friends at MoDOT helped him out after the storm, and they were there to greet him and his family when he returned home.

Operation Blessing, based in Virginia Beach, Va., arrived in Joplin within hours of the tornado. The Laceys were recommended to the group as a potential project. On June 7, the Laceys were moved into a travel trailer away from their home. They were told that someone was going to fix their roof for them, and that it would take about a week.

Their roof was done, and so was everything else. The walls were stripped to the studs. New drywall was installed. The wiring and plumbing were redone. New flooring was installed. A new kitchen and bathroom were installed. Bedrooms were furnished. New siding and windows were installed. An arbor and a koi pond were created in the backyard. They have new patio furniture and a grill. They have a vegetable garden. Their grandchildren were given a new treehouse.

It all had to be done within seven days.

On the final day, Joe Gibbs Racing's Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and his team arrived to help out with the treehouse and other chores.

When the Laceys pulled up to the front of their house, their view of it was blocked by two trailers. When they got out of their car, hundreds of volunteer workers walked south from 26th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue to greet them and surround them outside their home. Dry eyes became tearful.

When Debbie Lacey got out of the car, she sensed that something more than just a new roof had been done.

"I thought I was going to have to live in a tent for the rest of my life," she said.

When the trailers were pulled away, the Laceys saw their rebuilt home for the first time. There were hugs, more tears and expressions of appreciation that were too numerous to count.

Debbie Lacey said: "I had no idea this was happening. I am just speechless. The tornado destroyed everything we owned. Now I have a home. I can't believe that all of these wonderful people came to help us.

"The house is gorgeous. I have never had anything like this. It's just beautiful."

Information from: The Joplin Globe,