Recovery continues in Colorado town

Holly residents remain positive.

BY HEATHER MOYER | HOLLY, Colo. | August 11, 2007


Heavy equipment moves debris in Holly after the tornado.
Credit: Rev. Dave Moorman

Volunteers fix a home in Holly.
Credit: Rev. Dave Moorman

Mary Rushton knows that everyone who has come to Holly to help with the tornado recovery has a good heart, and that's needed since the recovery may last longer than originally thought.

"They're willing to take a weekend or a week to come in and help people they don't even know," said Rushton, case manager for the Holly Recovery Task Force. "It's been great to meet them all. It's probably my favorite part of this job."

People remain in need following the March 28 tornado that destroyed 48 homes and damaged 114 others. The twister also killed two people in the southeast Colorado town of just over 1,000 residents.

Rushton and the Holly Recovery Task Force were working on 160 cases, ranging from assisting with rent and mortgage payments to securing volunteer teams for home repairs. Hundreds of volunteers have cleaned up debris and repaired and rebuilt homes.

The task force, comprised of local church, social service agency and government representatives, was seeking out those in need. Rushton said while many residents had insurance, some were fighting with their insurance companies and others had insufficient coverage to completely recover. The damages were made worse for some families when a week after the tornado, a foot of snow fell on the town. That caused water damage in homes that had lost roofs and resulted in some homes, initially considered repairable, being a total loss.

"We initially thought this recovery would be a yearlong recovery, but now we're saying it may be two," Rushton said. "Some people still have not decided what they're going to do and others have not yet started rebuilding."

Fortunately, she said, volunteer teams continue calling to schedule work trips. Disaster response organizations have lent a hand with volunteers as well as funds to support the recovery. Funds from the United Methodist Committee on Relief are still being distributed to residents in need, said the Rev. Dave Moorman of Holly United Methodist Church.

Moorman's church suffered tornado damage, as did the nearby First Baptist Church. Some estimates showed that one-third of buildings in the town were damaged.

Moorman said residents continue to cope with the storm's emotional impact. Any time a storm rolls into the area, he said, everyone is on edge.

"There's this feeling when it gets dark (outside) - it's way down deep - you think, 'Boy, this could be a bad one,'" he said.

Moorman knows that feeling, as does his wife who was in their home when the tornado badly damaged it. The two now live in a trailer behind their house as it is being repaired.

People continue to grieve, Moorman said, and depression and anger flare up from time to time. Even so, there are bright spots, he said.

"Most people are hunkered down and getting things done," Moorman said. "People are very helpful to each other and they're uniting. And we still have folks calling in to offer help."

Rushton said local churches and the school were allowing volunteer teams to stay in their facilities and a nearby motel discounted one group's stay when employees found out why the group was in town.

The Rev. Ralph Plummer of First Baptist Church has seen similar situations. Like Moorman, many of his parishioners' homes were badly damaged. First Baptist Church was also wiped out. He said people were still positive.

"We had one woman who lost everything and they had to bulldoze her house," Plummer said. "Yet the next Sunday at church she gave a testimony. She said, 'All I've done is lost things. It's just stuff, but I'm here and that's what's important.'"

Plummer's church was meeting in a chapel space in downtown Holly as it plans its rebuild. He said he was happy to see signs of reconstruction and repairs around the town, adding that he has watched a few new home foundations being poured.

Rushton said she hoped those signs of life continue and, considering how far in advance some teams were scheduling their trips, she was feeling optimistic.

"The help here has been really great," she said. "There are still needs but there is also a lot of progress going on."


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