Local volunteers help finish house in Ohatchee
by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star
May 07, 2013 | 1119 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When an F4 tornado, at times a mile wide, struck Cochran Springs Road in Ohatchee on April 11, 2011, Tim Axelton was in his double-wide mobile, while his wife Debbie was visiting neighbors down the road.

When he realized what was happening, Tim immediately hit the floor and grabbed hold of the carpet. It might be the only thing that saved his life.

The mobile home was lifted and split apart.

Meanwhile, Debbie went with her neighbors to their basement. The only thing left of the neighbors’ house was the basement.

Two other neighbors were later found dead under their mobile home.

When Debbie found Tim he had bruised ribs and a lot of cuts. The tragedy had taken his voice, and he couldn’t speak for six months.

The Axeltons’ first home after the tornado was a tent. Later, FEMA brought them an RV before bringing them a mobile home. Last year they learned that FEMA was going to start charging them $800 a month to live in the mobile home.

“We couldn’t deal with that,” said Debbie.

Volunteers, with Tim’s help, built them a house, with $9,000 he received from FEMA but didn’t finish it outside.

Every time the wind blew, it blew pieces of insulation away. When it rained, there was so much water penetration, the house was uninsurable.

Friday, a lot of folks in red and orange shirts showed up to help the Axeltons finish their home. Employees of Keller Williams wore red shirts and Alabama Rural Coalition for the Homeless (ARCH) volunteers wore orange shirts.

Keller Williams called the day Red Project Day.

Donna Norton who works for Keller Williams and is also a case manager for ARCH, said their goal is to help tornado victims try to get back to as close as normal as possible.

She said many tornado victims were helped initially, but the work didn’t get finalized.

“People stopped coming, and nothing got completed,” she said. “For this couple, their home was completed on the inside but the outside elements were coming in. Weather was deteriorating the wood because the house wasn’t sufficiently completed enough to keep that from happening. It was just like a construction job that never got completely done. They (Keller Williams) weren’t aware that so many people needed assistance. When I brought it to their attention, they were extremely willing to help. We got a lot accomplished. We got very close to completing it.”

Volunteers will probably get everything finished this week.

“It’s just a feeling of happiness of seeing them feel like they’ve gained or accomplished something,” said Keller Williams realtor Joe Albright, who arranged for his brother’s crew, James Albright Construction, along with help from Calhoun Development Company Inc., to help. Joe Albright said the house is now insurable for two years.

When Albright told James Jumper, owner of Loco Mex, what was going on, Jumper provided lunch for the volunteers.

Amy Angel with Calhoun Development Inc., and Keller Williams said the Axeltons didn’t sit back and watch others work, they worked alongside everyone else.

“That was the best part,” she said. “They were involved in the whole process. I gave the lady a hug at the end of the day and told her that it was great working with her instead of working for her, because she worked with us the whole time. We appreciate everyone’s time. Thanks to Albright Construction, Terry Womack of Star Remodeling, and others, we got a lot done.”

Kyle Warmack, a newcomer to Keller Williams, said he’s proud to be associated with the company.

“I’ve been a realtor for Keller Williams Realty Group in Anniston for close to two months now, and I think it’s great to be a part of a company that cares about people and is willing to go out and identify someone with a need and help those people meet that need.”

“I love it,” said Debbie. “I’m so pleased that my house is completed and my insulation’s not blowing out anymore. I’m  blessed that the people helped us and I’m blessed to be alive and the Lord kept us on this earth. He kept us here for a reason.”

Debbie’s mother, Tivis McFry, lives in Jacksonville.

Contact Margaret at pollya922@gmail.com
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Local volunteers help finish house in Ohatchee by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star

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