Kentucky charities work toward Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund’s 300 stay-at-home goal

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As tornado recovery continues to move forward in western and central Kentucky, three charities are working toward the goal of building 300 homes for survivors with support from the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund.

In May, Governor Andy Beshear announced that $16 million would be allocated of the fund supported by donations to be split among three charities to help Kentucky Habitat for Humanity, the Mayfield-Graves Fuller Center for Housing and Homes, and Hope for Kentucky each build 100 homes. Of those $16 million, Kentucky Habitat for Humanity received $4 million, the Mayfield-Graves Fuller Housing Center received $4 million and Homes and Hope for Kentucky received $8 million.

The Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund is managed by the Cabinet of Public Protection. Here’s where each charity’s home building project stands.

Kentucky Habitat for Humanity

Kentucky Habitat for Humanity has already begun building its 100 homes with three of its affiliate chapters participating in the effort. The groups have so far built a collective of 15 houses eligible for reimbursement from the fund. There are also more homes that need to be built with the Habitat for Humanity Pennyrile Region chapter in Hopkins County.

Kentucky Habitat for Humanity executive director Mary Shearer said of the homes Habitat received reimbursement for, seven were built in Bowling Green, five were built in Ohio County and three were built in the small community of Cayce in Fulton County.

“A lot of the rebuilding that we’re going to do will be back on land owned by owners, but their homes have been washed away,” Shearer said.

Many rental homes were also damaged and destroyed by the tornado outbreak. Shearer said some of the work Habitat does helps convert residents of places like Bowling Green from renters to homeowners.

“What they do is they pay a 0% interest mortgage on the property that we, in partnership, are building for and with them,” Shearer said.

Applicants for a home through Habitat are income qualified to ensure they can afford payments on the home as well as home maintenance and insurance. Families who qualify for a home participate in “sweat equity,” which Shearer compares to a down payment, as a way to get them involved in building their home and their future. Standard payment terms with Habitat range from 20 to 25 years.

For the homes that Habitat builds, the cost is between $90,000 and $120,000, which means the $40,000 reimbursement per home from the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund is not enough to cover the whole project. However, Shearer said there are other organizations that help offset the costs, such as the Kentucky Housing Corporation and the Home Depot Foundation, as well as a variety of donations.

“It’s about layering the funds and the grant,” Shearer said.

Kentucky Habitat is always accepting donations and help from volunteers to help with their current and future projects. A blitz build event is scheduled for early October with the Pennyrile area affiliate to build homes in Dawson Springs.

For anyone interested in obtaining housing assistance through Kentucky Habitat for Humanity, applications are available online at www.kyhabitat.org.

Mayfield-Graves Fuller Housing Center

While the Mayfield-Graves Fuller Center for Housing – a Christian faith-based organization – has primarily worked in Graves County, they have also deployed to find locations to work on in Dawson Springs and Princeton with the help of Fuller Center International Groups. The Fuller Center has five houses in progress so far, but has not yet completed or received reimbursements from the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund.

Fuller Center board chairman Dave Wright said the group is working to locate and purchase properties to build homes for displaced tenants. This process, Wright said, takes a little longer than just building a house for someone who already owned property.

The Cabinet de Protection Publique only reimburses the organizations after the delivery of accommodation to the new owner. Wright said the Fuller Center has submitted an application for approval for a home they are building in Dawson Springs that they hope to hand over by the middle of next month.

“We received $4 million payable to offset all or part of the deposit, up to $40,000 per owner,” Wright said. “That equates to 100 homes which, if we can build them within the limits of the state contract, is the $4 million we have.”

The Fuller Center does not give houses.

“We provide good, sound homes at a very reasonable price, depending on the amount of labor materials donated, and obviously that subsidy is on the total cost,” Wright said. “That should be very reasonable. We have a 20 year interest free mortgage and the family will own the house.

Wright said the Fuller Center recently submitted a report to the Public Protection Cabinet informing them of their progress in building homes.

The Fuller Center needs volunteer artisans and monetary and material donations to help them continue their work of rebuilding homes in communities devastated by tornadoes.

“The whole process is about families — restoring lives, restoring families, restoring homes — and that’s all it’s about,” Wright said.

To learn more about the Mayfield-Graves Fuller Center for Housing, their information is available at https://fullercenter.org/mayfield-graves/.

Homes and Hope for Kentucky

Homes and Hope for Kentucky, formed in the wake of the December tornado outbreak under the 501c3 umbrella of the Mayfield Rotary Foundation, dedicated and received reimbursements for six homes that were built for tornado survivors. A seventh house was dedicated earlier this week. Homes and Hope is receiving an $80,000 reimbursement for each home returned to families. The group has over 20 other projects underway.

Jane Bright, the organization’s coordinator, said the group formed with the help of mennonite disaster servicewho was already in the field at Mayfield and has extensive disaster recovery experience.

“We are building specifically now only. At first we were doing repairs and did repairs on about 15 or 16 houses,” Bright said. “Once we shift gears in construction, we focus on building new homes for homeowners who lost their homes the night of the tornado.”

Homes and Hope plans to have a few more dedicated homes by September and even more as the month progresses.

The Homes and Hope program requires survivors to own, but materials are mostly paid for with donations. If a homeowner received funding from insurance or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a portion of that amount goes towards the cost of materials.

“All the work is voluntary, except the skilled labour. Skilled labor that needs to be allowed — like plumbers, electricians, that type of work,” Bright said. “We hire that. This is considered part of the material costs.

The entire $8 million allocation for Homes and Hopes is not just for Mayfield and Graves County, but for all of their work in Western Kentucky. The group is working on relocating to Dawson Springs to help them with their ongoing recovery efforts.

Bright said she was encouraged by the work and the speed of work being done by Homes and Hope.

“From a practical perspective, you can see progress being made,” Bright said. “Although there is still a lot to do, at least we are making a dent, we are helping a few. You can’t take care of everything. At the same time, you have to start somewhere.

Starting this work was a team effort according to Bright. Help from the Mennonite Disaster Service as well as donations from various organizations helped the group get started.

Bright said she has an additional 25 to 30 applicants she is processing for their program. Each application must be approved by the group’s executive committee, where applicants remain anonymous. There are a few qualifications applicants must meet, such as being able to pay taxes, maintenance, and home insurance.

“We’re just trying to help people who couldn’t rebuild any other way and then stay on their own,” Bright said.

For those wishing to contact or apply to Homes and Hope for Kentucky, the group can be reached by phone at 270-540-7070 or by email at [email protected].


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