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Kentucky charities working toward 300 home goal from Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund

During a visit to Mayfield, Governor Andy Beshear presents $16 million to Kentucky charities to help with the rebuilding of 300 homes for tornado-impacted families.
Lily Burris
During a visit to Mayfield, Governor Andy Beshear presents $16 million to Kentucky charities to help with the rebuilding of 300 homes for tornado-impacted families.

As tornado recovery continues to progress in west and central Kentucky, three charities are working toward the goal of building 300 homes for survivors with support from the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund.

In May, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that $16 million would be allocated from the donation-supported fund to be split among three charities to help Kentucky Habitat for Humanity, the Mayfield-Graves Fuller Center for Housing and Homes and Hope for Kentucky each build 100 homes. From that $16 million, Kentucky Habitat for Humanity received $4 million, the Mayfield-Graves Fuller Center for Housing received $4 million and Homes and Hope for Kentucky received $8 million.

The Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund is being managed by the Public Protection Cabinet. Here’s where each charity’s home construction project stands.

Kentucky Habitat for Humanity

Kentucky Habitat for Humanity has already gotten to work on building their 100 homes with three of their affiliate chapters taking part in the effort. The groups have built a collective 15 homes so far that qualified for reimbursement from the fund. There are also more homes scheduled to be built with the Habitat for Humanity Pennyrile Region chapter in Hopkins County.

Kentucky Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Mary Shearer said, of the homes that Habitat has received reimbursement for, seven were built in Bowling Green, five were built in Ohio County and three were built in the small community of Cayce in Fulton County.

“A lot of the rebuilding that we are going to do will be back on land that the home owners owned, but their houses were blown away,” Shearer said.

There were also a lot of rental homes damaged and destroyed by the tornado outbreak. Shearer said part of the work Habitat is doing is helping convert people in places like Bowling Green from renters to homeowners.

“What they do is they pay a 0% interest mortgage on the property that we, in partnership, build for and with them,” Shearer said.

Applicants for a home through Habitat are income qualified to make sure they can afford payments on the home as well as upkeep and home insurance. The families who do qualify for a home participate in “sweat equity,” which Shearer compares to a down payment, as a way to get them involved in the building of their home and their future. The standard terms of payment with Habitat range from 20 to 25 years.

For the homes Habitat is building, the cost is somewhere between $90,000 and $120,000, which means that the $40,000 per home reimbursement that comes from the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund isn’t enough to cover the whole project. However, Shearer said there are other organizations that help offset the costs like the Kentucky Housing Corporation and the Home Depot Foundation as well as a variety of donations.

“It's all about layering the funds and the subsidy,” Shearer said.

Kentucky Habitat is still accepting donations and volunteer assistance to help complete their ongoing and upcoming projects. There is a blitz build event scheduled for the beginning of October with the affiliate in the Pennyrile Region to build homes in Dawson Springs.

For anyone interested in getting housing assistance through Kentucky Habitat for Humanity, applications are available online at

Mayfield-Graves Fuller Center for Housing

While the Mayfield-Graves Fuller Center for Housing – a Christian faith-based organization – has mostly been doing work in Graves County, they’ve also been spreading out to look for locations to work on in Dawson Springs and Princeton with help from international Fuller Center groups. The Fuller Center so far has five homes in progress, but hasn’t completed any yet or received reimbursements from the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund.

Fuller Center Board Chair Dave Wright said right now, the group is working to locate and purchase properties to build homes on for displaced renters. This process, Wright said, is taking a little bit longer than just building a home for someone who owned a property already.

The Public Protection Cabinet only reimburses organizations after a home has been turned over to the new homeowner. Wright said the Fuller Center submitted an application for approval over a home they are building in Dawson Springs that they hope to turn over by the middle of next month.

“We were awarded $4 million to be given to offset all or part of the down payment, up to $40,000 per homeowner,” Wright said. “That equates to 100 homes that, if we can build them within the constraints of the state contract, comes to the $4 million that we have.”

The Fuller Center does not give away homes.

“We provide good sound homes at a very reasonable price, depending upon how much donated labor materials and obviously this grant applies toward the total cost,” Wright said. “It should be very reasonable. We have a no-interest up-to-20-year mortgage and the family will own the home.”

Wright said the Fuller Center recently submitted a report to the Public Protection Cabinet updating them on their progress in building homes.

The Fuller Center needs craftsman volunteers and monetary and material donations to help them continue their work in rebuilding homes in tornado-devastated communities.

“The whole process is about families — restoring lives, restoring families, restoring homes — and that's all it's about,” Wright said.

For more about the Mayfield-Graves Fuller Center for Housing, their information is available at

Homes and Hope for Kentucky

Homes and Hope for Kentucky, formed in the aftermath of the December tornado outbreak under 501c3 umbrella of the Mayfield Rotary Foundation, has dedicated and received reimbursements for six homes that have been built for tornado survivors. A seventh home was dedicated earlier this week. Homes and Hope receives an $80,000 reimbursement for each home turned over to families. The group has more than 20 other projects in the works.

Jane Bright, a coordinator for the organization, said the group formed with help from the Mennonite Disaster Service, which was already on the ground in Mayfield and has lots of experience in disaster recovery.

“We're specifically now building only. At first we were doing repairs, and did repairs on approximately 15 or 16 homes,” Bright said. “Once we shifted gears into building, we're concentrating on building new homes for homeowners who lost their homes the night of the tornado.”

Homes and Hope plans to have a few more homes dedicated by September and still more as the month goes on.

The Homes and Hope program does require survivors to be property owners, but the materials are mostly paid for with donations. If a property owner received funding from insurance or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a portion of that goes into the materials cost.

“All the work is volunteer except the skilled labor. The skilled labor that has to be licensed — like plumbers, electricians, that type of work,” Bright said. “We do hire that. That's considered as part of the materials costs.”

The entire $8 million allocation for Homes and Hopes isn’t just for Mayfield and Graves County, but for the entirety of their work in west Kentucky. The group is working to get set up in Dawson Springs to help with their ongoing recovery efforts.

Bright said she’s encouraged by the work and the speed of the work Homes and Hope has been doing.

“From a practical point of view, you can see that progress is being made,” Bright said. “While there's still so much more to do, at least we're making a dent, we're helping a few. You can't take care of everything. At the same time, you have to start somewhere.”

Getting this work started has been a team effort according to Bright. The assistance from the Mennonite Disaster Service as well as donations from a variety of organizations has helped the group get off the ground.

Bright said she’s got 25 to 30 more applicants she’s processing for their program. Each application has to be approved by the group’s executive committee, where the applicants remain anonymous. There are a few qualification applicants must meet such as being able to afford taxes, upkeep and homeowner’s insurance.

“We're just trying to help the people who couldn't rebuild any other way and then still remain homeowners,” Bright said.

For those interested in contacting or applying to Homes and Hope for Kentucky, the group is reachable over the phone at 270-540-7070 or via email at

Lily Burris is a tornado recovery reporter for WKMS, Murray State's NPR Station. Her nine month reporting project is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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