Neighbors rally to rebuild woman’s home damaged by tornado

Neighbors rally to rebuild woman’s home damaged by tornado

Workers shuffled in and out of Christy Ward’s future house, piecing together a new home for the single mother of two who was displaced when a tornado tore apart her mobile home.

In the storms that passed through the Lakelands and Upstate on May 3, a tornado that crossed multiple counties tore its way through Ward’s property on Johns Creek Road. Ward had just picked up her daughter, Pressley, from school and was headed home amid the rain, thinking the worst had passed.

“We had gotten the tornado warning but it had been about 30 minutes, so I thought we were safe,” she said.

As they pulled up to the house, she noticed things were getting worse. The wind was whipping the trees, and Ward started to back away when a tree in their yard snapped, falling on top of her car.

She and her daughter weren’t seriously injured by the tree, but the tree blocked the driver’s side door, so Ward and her daughter had to climb out through the passenger door.

“I just said let’s try and get into the house,” she said. “It was really scary, it all just happened at once.”

Ward and her children were living in a mobile home on the property as neighbors helped her repair a house on the property. Ward has lived on this property since 2009, and the day of the storm, she and Pressley took shelter in the house until the storm passed.

“We spent the first couple of nights on my niece’s couch,” Ward said.

Now she’s staying in a camper outside of a relative’s house. Being taken out of their homes has been a shock, but Ward said her daughters — Pressley and Nevaeh Harter — have been resilient through it all.

It didn’t take long before neighbors and others started reaching out to help. Christy’s ex, who works for a tree and stump removal service, came by after the storm to help clear some of the largest debris. The husband of her neighbor and friend, Lorie Ferqueron, helped clear the property, too.

About a week later, word had spread of Ward’s situation, and more people started to come together to help her.

“I think they drafted me to be like the general contractor,” said state Rep. John McCravy, with a laugh. “But a lot of people have already been reaching out and contributing.”

Once the property was mostly cleared of debris and accessible, McCravy and others worked to get plumbers and electricians into the old house to start rewiring it and laying new pipes. Much of the inside of the house is exposed, with a lot of work to be done to make it livable, but crews have been working daily to get it there.

By May 24, McCravy said they had a stove, sink and counter donated for the kitchen, a pedestal sink for the bathroom and soon after a donated tub was fitted in. The roof is damaged in several places, but McCravy said he’s reaching out to find someone who can help with that.

“I’ve always felt like this was the hand of God,” Ferqueron said.

Pastor John Elmore Jr., of St. Mark United Methodist Church, said he heard about Ward’s situation from someone who works in the school system. After collaborating with Ferqueron to find out how they can help, St. Mark donated a sink, along with a base and counter for the kitchen.

“I went over the day after the tornado and took a look at the house,” he said. “When you see a situation like that and understand the devastation going on, knowing there was a mom and two children in that home, we felt like it was our responsibility as a church with something to give to help out.”

Other donors have brought in a water heater, a stove, lumber for construction and other essentials. Heating and Cooling Solutions donated two mini-split air conditioners, and others have donated materials to pave the driveway.

“We’ve got a lot of people contributing money, too,” McCravy said. “We’ve set up a fund at my law firm.”

Anyone interested in helping can drop off donations at the McCravy, Newlon, Sturkie and Clardy Law firm office at 1629 Bypass 72, or mail checks there payable to the McCravy Law Firm for the Ward house fund. McCravy said anyone interested in lending a hand in the rebuild can reach out to talk about how best to help.

Ward walked through the house Wednesday as McCravy showed her the work underway.

“It’s amazing how many people have helped and how far along it’s come already,” she said. “Any help is so appreciated. You can’t even imagine how much we really appreciate this.”

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