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franklin county times

Mennonite home dedicated

PHIL CAMPBELL – Roy Garner stood in the middle of his new home, overcome by emotion as he tried to find words to say to the group gathered there for the house’s dedication.

On Friday, Garner became the second homeowner in Phil Campbell to have a house built and dedicated by the Mennonite Disaster Service along with the help of several other community volunteers.

The walls of the two-bedroom home were lined with Mennonite volunteers from Lancaster County, Pa., family and friends who were there to see Garner take the first steps in this new chapter of his life.

“We just ask God’s blessings on this home,” said Bro. Tim Haney, pastor of First Baptist Church in Phil Campbell. “We bless it to love and kindness, we bless it to the service of God and we bless all who enter these doors.”

First Baptist Church in Phil Campbell has served as a liaison for the MDS and has helped the group find residents who would qualify for assistance since The group builds homes for people who have very little or no insurance.

During the dedication, Haney said Garner had been a member of First Baptist in Phil Campbell since he was 12 years old and they were all glad he had made it through the deadly tornado that claimed the lives of 26 other residents.

“We didn’t know where Roy was for two weeks and we feared the worst,” Haney said. “Then one day he came walking up and I thought I was seeing a ghost.”

Garner said the fact that he was able to make it out alive was no less than a miracle.

“I was leaning on the back of my kitchen chair watching the TV and listening to the weather radio but they weren’t talking about Hackleburg. They were talking about Arab and Huntsville,” Garner said. “When the tornado came, I wasn’t scared even though I probably should’ve been. If it was my time to go I told the Lord to take me.”

After the E-F5 tornado’s 200 mph winds passed by, Garner said he realized that he hadn’t moved from the spot he was standing in and he hadn’t been hit by any of the debris.

“I wasn’t touched by anything except God,” Garner said. “He had a hold on me.”

After Garner’s house was destroyed, he sought refuge at the house of his cousin, Betty Burnett, and was staying with her and her family when he found out he would be receiving a new home.

“Bro Tim asked [the MDS] to build a home for me, but they have done a lot more than just build me a home,” Garner said as he fought back tears. “They and a lot of other people have donated time and materials and I can’t thank them enough. I thank God for them.”

Volunteers with the Russellville Fire Department provided the electrical work and the plumbing for the home and several businesses and individuals donated materials and funding.

“This was a really good opportunity for us and we were glad to give back to the community,” RFD Capt. Steve Thornton said. “This has even been a family affair – Chief [Joe] Mansell brought his family and I brought my son and parents. It was very fulfilling to volunteer our time.

“We are hoping to keep working with the Mennonites as long as our volunteers keep going and want to help, and anyone who wants to join us is more than welcome.”

Earl Bouder, a member of the storm aid group of MDS, said the Amish community created their storm aid group after Hurricane Katrina when they realized there was a need for this type of service.

“This group worked on Mr. Garner’s house for five weeks and traveled the 14 hours from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania on the weekends,” Bouder said. “This is a good, solid house that is designed to handle 140 mph hurricane winds. It’s modest but it meets a need and that was out goal here – to meet human needs.”

Bouder said the MDS provides the labor to build the homes for free but the supplies have to be provided. He said most of the funds for the home came from the $30,200 limit provided by FEMA but the homeowners and the community have to come up with the rest, which is exactly what happened in this situation.

Manny Flaud, Jr., who also works with MDS, said this has been a great experience.

“When we first decided to come help, we were actually planning to go to Birmingham, but FEMA asked us to take a look at Phil Campbell since it had been hit hard and it was a small community,” Flaud said. “As long as needs are here, we’ll probably be here. We’ve already put in the foundation for the next house we’ll be working on.”

Phil Campbell Police Chief Merrell Potter expressed his gratitude at the dedication to everyone who had a hand in the project.

“I appreciate all the effort that went into getting these walls up, and I appreciate Mr. Garner for choosing to rebuild here in Phil Campbell,” Potter said. “This is a symbol for a new beginning for our town.”

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