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Mayfield organization hands over keys for new homes on the six-month anniversary of the tornado

Liam Niemeyer
Gov. Andy Beshear and other state and local officials speak on the front porch of Billy and Barbara Patterson's new home.

A framed picture of Barbara and Billy Patterson standing on the dirt where their North 6th Street home once was now sits on a sparkling new counter in their newly rebuilt home.

They had lived and raised a family for more than three decades in that house before the ceiling was ripped off and the windows shattered by a violent EF-4 tornado that devastated the small town of Mayfield in early December.

Now six months later, that picture is just a snapshot of the beginning of their journey. The couple’s new home has bright white halls, new appliances and a spacious front porch. They were one of three families who received the keys to a new home Friday from Homes and Hope for Kentucky, a Mayfield organization aiming to rebuild homes for 100 Mayfield residents.

Liam Niemeyer
Billy and Barbara Patterson (right) speaking with Gov. Andy Beshear inside their new home.

The Pattersons walked through each of the new rooms with Gov. Andy Beshear, and the governor eventually introduced himself to some of the pair’s great grandchildren.

“Thanks for letting the community celebrate with you,” Beshear told the children. “Because it may take a little longer to get their house up but they can see this one and they can know it’s coming.”

Mayfield Mayor Kathy O’ Nan, State Rep. Richard Heath, Beshear and members of the Homes and Hope for Kentucky committee – standing on the Patterson’s front porch – trumpeted the newly built homes as a step forward for the community.

“What a sacred day,” said Kevin King executive director of the Mennonite Disaster Service. “So many people came together and said, ‘We need a signpost of hope in Mayfield, Kentucky.’”

The Mennonite Disaster Service has partnered with Homes and Hope for Kentucky to provide construction labor for the rebuilt homes. A New York-based nonprofit in January gave $250,000 to the Mayfield organization, and the state’s tornado relief fund gave another $8 million for construction materials.

Farther down North 6th Street, members of the Mennonite and Amish communities sang in unison to introduce Francisco Rios’ family to their new home, filling the rooms with hymns.

Liam Niemeyer
Members of the Mennonite and Amish communities sing hymns to Francisco Rios' family (center) in their new home.

Rios is a painter by trade, and along with painting his rebuilt home on North 6th Street, he’s helping give other people’s new homes some color.

“A lot of people helped me,” Rios said standing with his family in front of the new home. “Everybody needs it. There’s a lot of families who need it.”

For Joe Orr, a veteran and a committee member of Homes and Hope for Kentucky, the three new homes were a culmination of months of hard work, with over 20 homes still in the rebuilding process for the organization.

“I feel very proud of that. I’ve accomplished a lot of things in my military career,” Orr said. “This is right at the top as far as an opportunity to help people and give back in a way that I’ve never been able to do before.”

Orr said he hopes the celebration of the new homes will help raise awareness for other families who may qualify for a new home from the organization, with the group still taking applications for assistance.

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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