BY KEN LITTLE
It's been more than 18 months since the deadly tornado outbreak of April 27-28, 2011, but some Greene County survivors are still feeling the effects of the storm.
One family from the Greystone community experienced numerous hardships in the months following the tornado that destroyed their home.
Amy Ellerman, her husband Amel, and their daughter Amber awaited assistance without complaint.
The family's patience was rewarded with the completion of a new house on their property on Richard Blake Road, just in time for the holidays.
A son, Travis, who grew up on the property, now lives in Washington County.
The house was built with help from building material retailer Home Improvement Warehouse, licensed general residential and commercial contractor Ace Development Inc., and AIDNET of Greene County, Inc.
It is the last AIDNET project to be completed, and Amy Ellerman said last week the wait was worth it.
"I love it. It's beautiful," she said. "That's where we raised our kids, and being able to get back home is the main thing."
After living in a rental property for most of the time since the tornado destroyed their mobile home, Ellerman said her family was able to reunite for Thanksgiving in the new house, an attractive yellow ranch-style structure with one feature the Ellermans insisted on -- a basement.
"It was real good. It was the first time my brothers and sisters were able to spend time together since daddy passed away two years ago," Ellerman said.
GRATEFUL FOR HELP
Ellerman, who works in the Greene County Clerk's office, said that until recently, her family lived in a mobile home in Greystone owned by County Clerk David Thompson.
She's grateful that Thompson made the rental property available, and is thankful for her new house.
"We appreciate everything they did," she said. "All the guys who built it did a great job."
Andy Broyles, business manager of Home Improvement Warehouse, oversaw the construction of another house for a Horse Creek family whose mobile home was destroyed by a tornado.
That house, known as the "Hope House," was completed earlier this year.
Broyles said he and the staff at Home Improvement Warehouse, with the assistance of others, were committed to getting the Ellermans in their new home by Thanksgiving.
"It was an area that was hard-hit. Three or four houses of their neighbors were destroyed. It was right in the path of the storm," Broyles said.
He said AIDNET asked Broyles "to take on the final major project resulting from the tornadoes on 2011."
The partners "gladly accepted" and dedicated full resources to the project, Broyles said.
"In addition to the material and construction abilities, we also have some pretty unique design abilities including engineering and interior design. When we decide to take on a project, we have the ability to act as a design/build firm, which allows us to take our customers' desires and ideas and turn them into reality," Broyles said.
"That is exactly what we did on this project and the 'Hope House' project that we recently completed. We talked with the homeowners and then designed a house plan for them based on their exact needs."
Work began in early September. The team of professional carpenters and subcontractors was led by Jeff Gallihar.
"We were able to take this home from footings to completion in only 10 weeks. We had promised Mr. and Mrs. Ellerman that we would have them in the home by Christmas, but were able to surprise them by having the home completed before Thanksgiving," Broyles said.
The double-wide mobile home occupied by the Ellermans before the tornadoes struck sustained heavy damage in that disaster.
"A tree went through a portion of the roof of the house, and the storm just tore the house apart," Broyles said.
"We were asked by AIDNET to do this in mid-June and we told them we couldn't do anything until we finished the [Hope House]."
Meanwhile, the Ellermans were living in the rental property as they ironed out financial details.
"We basically built the house at cost, and AIDNET directed a little money to help offset the cost," Broyles said.
AIDNET formally shut down the tornado disaster relief effort on July 31, after assisting with more than 40 major building projects and dozens of lesser ones.
AIDNET's board of directors meets quarterly, however, to stay prepared to respond to future disasters if they come.
As the Ellermans settle into their house, the memory of the tornado is still vivid to Amy Ellerman, who survived the storm with her daughter, Amber, inside a closet in Amber's bedroom.
Her husband, an over-the-road trucker, was not home.
'SCARED TO DEATH'
"The tornado picked the house up and a tree slammed it back down. We were scared to death," Ellerman said.
The new house, which is about 1,350 square-feet, sits on land where the mobile home once stood.
Thompson said he helped the Ellermans with some of the paperwork necessary to receive help, but he gives all the credit to AIDNET and Andy Broyles as far as moving the project forward.
"I know it's tough for the family to be displaced so long. They're really grateful to be in there," Thompson said.
"It took a long time to the point where they were able to settle with their insurance company. Once that happened, Andy and AIDNET helped things happen real quick."
It was important for all those involved in the project to get the family in the house as soon as possible, Broyles said.
"She's very nice, and they're very patient. This is the last AIDNET project, and they patiently waited and they didn't push for anything," he said.
"That is part of the reason my guys and the subcontractors working on this were really pushing so they could get in it by Thanksgiving."
The Ellermans have lived on the property for 26 years.
"Our guys were aware of how long this family had waited to move back to their land, and they really went the extra mile working extra days and long hours to finish this house far ahead of schedule," Broyles said.
Amy Ellerman likes every feature of her new home.
"I love my kitchen. It's just spacious," she said. "We got a lot of room."
The Ellermans only insisted on one design feature.
"I told them we would not go back without a basement," Ellerman said.
This holiday season may be the most meaningful one of all to the Ellermans.
"Everybody's supposed to come. My husband will be home for Christmas," Amy Ellerman said. "I appreciate everything that everybody did."