Volunteers rebuild home destroyed by tornado

Published 9:30 am Saturday, September 30, 2023

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Work began Friday morning to build a new home for a woman displaced by an EF-3 tornado that did massive damage to the community six months ago to the day. The single-wide mobile home Mary Ann Smith had been living in was damaged by the storm but, fortunately, she was uninjured. More than 100 homes in the area received some kind of damage. Miraculously, no was was killed or even seriously hurt.

A concrete block foundation for the new home was put in place several days ago. Bright and early on Friday morning, more than 20 volunteers from the Carpenters for Christ were at the Smith residence framing up a new 1,000-square-foot home. They plan to have it dried in by Saturday afternoon. There will still be some electrical wiring and plumbing to be done, and the sheetrock will have to be put in before Smith can move in. The volunteers are hoping she can be living there by the end of the year.

Many of the volunteers are from the Valley area and some are from the west Georgia-east Alabama region. A few more will be arriving on Saturday to help with finishing up operations.

Emory Combs supervised the work details. He was assisted by his son, Lenoye. Another son, Jim, is the public relations spokesman for the East Alabama chapter of Carpenters for Christ.

“You don’t have to be a carpenter to help us with our mission,” said Jim Combs. “The core of our leadership is made up of skilled carpenters who can get us where we need to be.”

Combs added that being with Carpenters for Christ is a calling.

“Once you go to one of our missions, you are hooked,” he said. “You want to do it again and again. We are glad to be here today. We usually go on two-week mission trips to help pioneer churches build a sanctuary or education building. Some of our volunteers take vacation time to go on these missions.”

Information about the east Alabama chapter can be found at www.eastalabamacfc.org.

Like many residents who live just north of West Point, Smith was fortunate to escape serious injury in the March 29 tornado. There’s a huge oak tree in her front yard that did not come down. A smaller tree came down on one end of her mobile home, causing some serious damage. That’s why she needs a new place to live.

Friday’s six-month anniversary of the tornado touching down was marked by the reconstruction of Bethel Baptist Church. A concrete foundation was recently poured, and steel girders are framing up the site of a new church building. Bethel’s rebirth is a powerful symbol of the community coming back from one terrible day.

The nearby West Point Motel is also planning a comeback. Cleanup operations have been taking place there recently. The tornado caused massive damage to the motel’s roof areas, but the walls are largely intact.