By MATT KOESTERS
HENRYVILLE — What a difference a year makes.
The day the EF-4 tornado touched down and carved a path of destruction through Northern Clark County, Dustin Hall, 25, was among the firefighters who worked to sort through the damage as he searched for survivors.
But he wasn’t just an emergency responder. He also was a victim. Upon finishing up his shift and returning home, he found that the apartment he and his wife called home hadn’t been spared. Glass littered the floor and hail had perforated the walls.
But a year later, the tornado is behind the Halls. In its place is a new home in the Twin Oaks subdivision of Henryville, constructed during a blitz build performed by more than 1,000 volunteers.
“It was mind-blowing,” Hall said. “All of these people come from everywhere in Indiana — come down just to build a house that’s not going to be [their own]. It’s wonderful.”
Habitat for Humanity of Indiana and the New Albany/Floyd County Habitat organization orchestrated the construction blitz of 10 homes in Twin Oaks for families that had been affected by the tornado. The homes now house 29 disaster victims.
“Our mission is to help families and to empower them, and this was a major thing,” said Lisa Curry with New Albany Habitat. “These people, their lives have been changed forever.”
Volunteers got to work during the summer, gathering in lumber yards and the parking lot of Northside Christian Church to construct frames for the homes.
“We had various groups, a lot of groups locally, both local volunteers that had been involved with our affiliate to local volunteers that saw the media [reports] about the event itself, right on up to the volunteers from all over the nation that know about Habitat for Humanity and the good works they do and saw what was going on and actually came here,” Curry said.
The project got major financial and material contributions from Lowe’s, the Ogle Foundation, the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church, Cummins, the Indiana Builders Association and the Indiana Mortgage Bankers Association.
Between Oct. 8 and Oct. 12, 200 volunteers worked four-hour shifts each day to construct the exterior of the houses, which became homes on a Dec. 15 move-in day.
All told, more than 15,000 volunteer hours were logged during the $1.8 million blitz build. And new Twin Oaks residents like Hall certainly appreciate it.
“I love it,” Hall said. “It’s good to be able to go to work, earn that paycheck and know that that paycheck is going to pay for this house that I own.”