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March 30, 2012

Signs of life: Residents, volunteers work to repair damaged homes, build back Henryville

HENRYVILLE — As the debris starts to clear, signs of rebuilding can already be seen in Henryville, where an EF-4 tornado ripped through the town March 2.

“It’s good the town is picking up. It’s never going to look the same, but it’s looking better. You can see progress,” said 54-year-old Van Applegate, who owned two homes in Henryville that were heavily damaged from the tornado.

Volunteers, contractors and homeowners are filling the town to start rebuilding.

“They are pretty quick getting everything put back together,” said 67-year-old Jim Thomas, whose apartment off Front Street had already had the roof and gutters repaired, with the windows scheduled to come in soon. “It’s amazing all these volunteers coming in from all over — Pennsylvania, Lafayette, Illinois. You find out there are some good people in this world.”

Jason Brisinger’s rental home off Front Street was getting the finishing touches this week, with new siding going up. He said the roof and windows had already been replaced.

“It’s unreal to be building it back already,” he said.

Though his landlord got insurance to cover the repairs, some found themselves under-insured or having no insurance, including Applegate.

He said one of his two damaged homes dates back to about 1860 and had been in his family for three generations. The house lost the roof, half of the second story, windows, coal shed and more. Neither of the houses were insured.

Applegate, who lives in a third home located in Sellersburg, has taken vacation time and is working with volunteers to clean up the properties in hopes of selling them to someone who can afford to restore them. Some of those volunteers included 41-year-old Darla Miller, from Dublin, Ind., who took vacation time and came down with her 17-year-old son and 69-year-old mother to help out wherever needed.

She said the reason for coming down to help strangers was simple.

“If this ever happens to us, maybe someone will help us,” Miller said. “This gives us some time to spend time the three of us and do something good.”

Tabitha Edwards, from Westville, Ill., wanted to repay a favor.

“I wanted to help. I had a house fire once and had a lot of help and I’ve always wanted to give back and haven’t had an opportunity to do so until now,” she said.

Edwards’ employer, Flex N Gate, brought a total of 19 people to help in the cleanup efforts. This week, they worked to replace a roof on a home off Front Street.

“I’m learning as I go, but it’s fun. Every helping hand counts,” Edwards said. “It feels really good [to help]. This is something that will change their life for the better and help them get past this.”

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