December 1, 2022 | Local News
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

The newly-rebuilt home of Forrest House, a client of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Owensboro, who was a survivor of the Dec. 10, 2021 tornadoes. COURTESY OF DCN. BRENT KIMBLER

‘We’re here for the long haul,’ says construction manager deacon as tornado recovery continues


A deacon who also serves as the construction manager and volunteer coordinator for the tornado recovery efforts of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Owensboro has learned over the past year that when it comes to rebuilding after a natural disaster, “you’d better have the patience of Job.”

Dcn. Brent Kimbler of the tri-parishes of St. Edward Parish in Fulton, St. Jude Parish in Clinton, and Sacred Heart Parish in Hickman has been overseeing the agency’s construction work since February 2022.

He emphasized that “it is important to understand that it will work out; we will get it done.”

Still, various challenges with limited infrastructures, local politics, supply and volunteer shortages, and a struggling economy can be discouraging – especially as communities approach the first anniversary of the tornadoes.

“The main thing we try to focus on is that survivors are taken care of, getting what they need and receiving proper assistance,” said Dcn. Kimbler, in a Nov. 14, 2022 interview with The Western Kentucky Catholic.

Catholic Charities has been out in the field since the first week, initially assisting with survivors’ basic needs and later expanding to helping clients get their homes rebuilt.

“Early on, everybody was here,” he said of the volunteer base. “That’s drying up as people are going to help with disasters in other areas. So we are partnering with CAM (Christian Aid Ministries), who are going to rebuild homes for existing homeowners who lost everything.”

Dcn. Kimbler said they continue coordinating with other local organizations and the long-term recovery groups. He said they have worked with agencies like St. Vincent de Paul’s House in a Box program, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Convoy of Hope, and Samaritan’s Purse.

“When we all come together and work together, as we can and should, it’s a beautiful thing,” he said.

Unfortunately, while “something like this brings out the very best in people, it also brings out the very worst in people,” he said, in reference to those who attempt to use the disaster to scam the system.

But fortunately, Dcn. Kimbler said Catholic Charities’ case managers focus on properly assessing needs of their clients and others who come to them for help. He has been moved by their genuine care for those they serve.

“They are just good people,” he said. “Working alongside them is a pleasure and a joy. The bottom line for them is that it’s about the client, it’s about the survivors.”

He also credited Katina Hayden and Scott Ingram, Catholic Charities’ directors of case management, who “have done an excellent job.”

Dcn. Kimbler recently preached a homily on the virtue of perseverance. He asked the faithful, “Can we stay the course? Can we hold on?”

“That’s the same question for Catholic Charities,” he told the WKC. “And my answer is yes! You definitely learn as you go – we were thrown in there. We had resources, but like anything else, until you hit the ground you just don’t know what to expect.”

He is thankful for the spiritual support of “so many, including our bishop, and our priests who are so good.”

“It’s not our timing; it’s God’s timing when you’re dealing with this scope of work across all of these counties,” he said of the estimated 3-5 years of recovery work ahead. But, “I’m proud of every one of our case managers and everyone involved with Catholic Charities.”

“We’re here for the long haul,” he said.

Originally printed in the December 2022 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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