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Community Group Helps Couple Rebound From Disaster

A  Springfield Massachusetts couple is having a heartwarming, yet bittersweet, homecoming this Thanksgiving.  They are finally moving back to the home that was nearly destroyed in the June 1, 2011 tornado.   WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports

The  tornado caused major  damage to the ranch style home of  Terry Humphries and  his wife MaryAnn Carroll. More than a dozen trees came crashing down, leaving holes in the roof.  Then things got worse.

Their original contractor ripped them off for $48,000, leaving the home still uninhabitable. Humphries, a Vietnam veteran with health problems attributed to Agent  Orange began treatment for leukemia. He was forced to retire from his teaching job.  Medical bills, housing and other expenses piled up.

The  people Humphries is talking  about are members of Springfield Community Together. It’s the tornado long term recovery group comprised of representatives from 16  faith based, community and professional organizations.  It exists to address  unmet needs  for people like Terry Humphries and his wife who have done all the right things, but still need help.

Springfield Community Together organized two volunteer workdays  to clear debris from the couple’s yard. They helped access $55,000 from the Massachusetts Disaster Fund, and a $15,000 state grant. The organization hired Adrian Construction Company  to finish the  home repair work.   Adrian McCray did the job for a 20 percent discount.

There was a homecoming celebration a few days before Thanksgiving.

MaryAnn Carroll said she wanted nothing more than to have their home repaired so that her terminally ill sister can move in and spend her final days with family.

The tornado long term recovery group has helped more than 200 Springfield families in the last year and half.  Pastor Tracy Johnson of Christ Presbyterian Church, a member of the recovery organization’s board, says they need to raise $150,000 to keep their staff of five caseworkers and construction specialists on the job through May.

People interested in donating, or volunteering for a rebuilding  or debris clean up project should visit the website  www.springfieldcommunitytogether.com

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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