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Mayfield organization aiming to rebuild homes breaks ground for its first displaced family

Liam Niemeyer
Gov. Andy Beshear on Friday speaks at the Homes and Hope for Kentucky groundbreaking in Mayfield.

Barbara Patterson and her family stood in the driveway outside her ruined home the first December morning after a historic tornado devastated the small town of Mayfield.

Window glass was shattered across the tan carpet in the living room, and pink fiberglass insulation hung down into the kitchen from a hole torn in the roof. It was a home where Patterson had lived and raised her children for more than three decades, and the halls were decked for a Christmas holiday the family would spend elsewhere.

Patterson at the time said they would rely on their faith to get through their loss.

“We will move forward by the lord. Through the strength of god, we will. And our family, I’ve got a very close-knit family,” Patterson said. “We’ll make it.”

They have been spending the past weeks at a nearby Super 8, working to get insulin for her diabetic husband, Billy Patterson, and trying to find salvageable home appliances for an eventual rebuild.

Yet on Friday, the couple saw the first step toward that rebuild, what would be a costly journey for them taken care of by a community organization.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and other state and local officials gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony in front of where the Patterson’s home used to be on N. 6th Street, the property a cleared slate of dirt.

Liam Niemeyer
Shattered glass in the living room of the Patterson home on Dec. 11, 2021.

“No matter what this world throws at us in this last two years – it's thrown a lot at us, whether it's pandemic, or flooding, or ice storms or the most devastating tornadoes anyone could imagine – Mayfield does not break,” Beshear said.

The rebuilding of the Patterson’s home is the first for Homes and Hope for Kentucky, an organization of community stakeholders in Mayfield aiming to rebuild homes for 100 displaced Mayfield residents, along with making home repairs for many others.

Homes and Hope for Kentucky Co-chair Heather Nesler said they’ve received over 110 applications for home demolition, rebuilding or repair so far. The volunteer-run organization had already raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for building materials. At the ceremony, a New York-based nonprofit helping first responders and Gold Star families, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, announced it would also contribute $250,000 toward the Mayfield organization.

Jack Oehm, a Tunnel to Towers Foundation board member and a retired Battalion Commander for the New York City Fire Department, recalled support he felt in the months following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and how it compares to what he’s seen in Kentucky.

“I see the goodness of America right here, right in front of me, with all you good people coming out,” Oehm said. “We live in the greatest country in the face of the world. I'm happy and proud to be here to help the good folks of Mayfield.”

Mennonite Disaster Service, a religious-affiliated volunteer network, is providing the labor for the home rebuilding to the Mayfield organization. A representative with the network announced at the ceremony that a request had been made to the network board to provide $20,000 in funding to the first ten homes rebuilt by Homes and Hope for Kentucky.

The groundbreaking is just the beginning for Homes and Hope for Kentucky, which is still seeking applications from Mayfield residents looking to have homes demolished, rebuilt or repaired.

For Billy Patterson, the ceremony was yet another example of the goodness of humanity. He said most of those helping him and his wife didn’t know them before the storm.

“All the stuff going on in this world today, there's still a lot of good people,” he said.

As the crowd gathered to see an excavator on the property dig up the first few shovels of dirt, Billy and Barbara put their arms around each other and watched the beginning of their new future.

Liam Niemeyer
Billy and Barbara Patterson (center) watch the excavator shovel dirt on their property.

"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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