Southern alumnus receives new house


Curtis Almeter

Kyle Howard, a Southern alumnus and firefighter shares an embrace with fellow firefighter Justin Jeser after the revealing of his new home.


On Oct. 19, Joplin welcomed the Emmy-award winning show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” with wide-open arms. 

After hearing about the devastation caused by Joplin’s histotically devastating May 22 tornado, the show contacted builder Sam Clifton, who had helped on a project for the show in 2009, began collaborating on ideas on how give back to the community, ravaged by an EF-5 storm which claimed the lives of 162 people. 

“Seven homes in seven days” quickly became the slogan for the biggest project the show had ever tackled.  

“With 21 builders and 10,000 volunteers on board, the show sent a casting director in Joplin 90 days after the tornado to pick the lucky families. 

“We look for deserving families … that’s the key,” Diane Korman, senior producer for the show said.   

Kyle Howard, an alum of Missouri Southern and Joplin firefighter, was chosen for the build after being nominated by fire Chief Mitch Randles.

“It means everything. We wouldn’t let anyone else work on it once we heard it was his,” Captain John Alford for the Joplin fire department.  

Firefighters came down from Springfield, Fulton, Overland Park, Kan., and Iowa, to help, with the majority of the volunteers on Howard’s house being firefighters. 

They put on red hard hats and began work, taking turns on 12-hour shifts to get project done in just one short week. 

“It makes you feel awesome because you’re actually helping a brother,” Kevin Theilen, captain for Joplin fire department said. 

“It’s a brotherhood, an extended family.” 

Howard was working at one of the stations that was hit on May 22, and knew his house had gotten hit, yet continued to be out helping people.  

His wife, Jill, and three of their four children rode out the storm at their home. 

Their other son was out of town. 

The new homes are between 1,300-1,800 square feet and each unique to the family and similar to houses that were in the area. 

“Kyle deserves this a whole lot, he’s not only a good firefighter, but a good person,” Theilen said. 

Andrew VanHoesen, a volunteer from Ozark, Mo. drove down to do his part. VanHoesen helped on the Howard house doing everything from clearing debris to landscaping. 

“All these families are deserving, because he’s a firefighter it just makes it that much better,” he said.  

The show did much more than build seven homes.Hope in the community was being built and faith being restored. 

“It’s definitely going to be a shot in the arm for us to get moving,” Eric Walters, captain for Joplin fire department, said.  

Howard wasn’t available for comment at press time.