Habitat planning 35-home build in Joplin

Several large home-building projects have made an impact in Joplin since the May 22 tornado, first with a visit from the team with ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition followed by the Ten for Joplin project headed by the Joplin and Tulsa chapters of Habitat for Humanity.

Now, the Joplin Habitat for Humanity is gearing up for an even bigger project.

At halftime during last weekend’s Border War between the University of Missouri and the University of Kansas, Governor Jay Nixon announced what he’s calling the 2012 Governor’s Joplin Habitat Challenge, a project that will build 35 new homes in Joplin over the course of the year. Nixon has the support of Missouri’s athletic teams as well as the NASCAR’s Kansas Speedway in completing the task.

“In the wake of the devastating tornado, folks from across Missouri and around the world stepped forward to help the Joplin community recover and rebuild, and Missouri’s major athletic organizations were a vital part of those recovery efforts,” Nixon said in a Feb. 4 press release. “I am proud that Missouri’s teams are leading the way once again by participating in the 2012 Governor’s Joplin Habitat Challenge, and I encourage all Missourians to get involved.  Together, we’ll directly tackle the critical issue of housing in Joplin by building 35 homes this year, and providing the resources for Habitat for Humanity to expand its mission in the years to come.”

Nixon was joined in making the announcement at the basketball game by Kansas Speedway president Patrick Warren, St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danario Alexander, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, Kansas City Royals pitcher Aaron Crow, former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Andy Benes, St. Louis Blues legend and NHL hall of famer Bernie Federko, and University of Missouri athletic director Mike Alden.

Cassel and Alden in particular have already been instrumental in the rebuilding process, with Cassel spending time in the area and Alden being a large piece of the “One State, One Spirit Classic” held at Southern’s Leggett & Platt Athletic Center last fall. The game saw the Missouri Tigers take on the Lions, with proceeds going to tornado relief efforts.

“The 2012 Joplin-Habitat Governor’s Challenge truly keeps the ‘One State-One Spirit’ movement alive, as Missourians continue to come together to help Joplin rebuild,” Alden said.

Bob Harrington, University physical plant director, is a member of the Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity chapter’s doesn’t have a definitive start date as of yet, but the organization is already looking for builders and volunteers, as they don’t have enough volunteers currently to take on such a large project alone.

“There’s no way for us to build 35 houses in one year,” Harrington said. “We can’t get there from here.”

The group will look for as many builders as possible who will work with volunteers to build the homes.

Some of those volunteers will be professional athletes from the seven organizations helping to promote the builds.

“They will actually come down on the days and volunteer and work with the volunteers on the houses, so it’s their neighborhood,” Harrington said.

The organizations’ marketing departments will promote a contest between the groups to get fans and others to donate more money to the Joplin Habitat for Humanity to build more houses beyond just this project.

This build will be funded primarily by a $3.6 million Community Development Block Grant and donations received throughout the process.

Families selected for the homes will be required to go through normal Habitat for Humanity procedures to receive a home, including an application process, financial review and putting in sweat equity on current builds or at the organization’s re-store.

Interested parties can call the Habitat for Humanity office in Joplin at (417) 782-6533 to apply for a home.

A search committee has been designated to choose neighborhoods for the builds and should have those decided upon soon.

Thousands of volunteers will be needed to complete all the homes within the year, and the Habitat for Humanity is stepping up efforts there as well.

“We are actually in the process of hiring a volunteer coordinator right now to put the list of volunteers [together],” Harrington said.

“Trying to put all those volunteers together and get them all at the right place on the right day to do their work pretty much is a full time job.”

Once neighborhoods are selected, volunteers can begin signing up through the Habitat for Humanity website, the Governor’s website, or by calling the Joplin office.

Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity has five homes currently being built, 10 more scheduled for the spring, plus the 35 sponsored by Gov. Nixon for a total of 50 homes this year.