February 20, 2023 | Your Stories
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

A new home for LaDonna, Eddie, and their daughter. COURTESY OF INDIANA-KENTUCKY SYNOD

From Abandoned to Embraced!


LaDonna, Eddie, and their 24-year-old special needs daughter are currently living in a storage container that has been converted into a tiny house by Eko Villages of Hope. The tiny house has one bedroom and one bathroom and while the family is grateful for the place to stay, it’s not a long-term solution. They are feeling very cramped, sharing about 200 square feet of space.

LaDonna and Eddie had renters’ insurance when the tornado ripped through Dawson Springs on December 10, 2021, destroying their rented home. Their insurance paid out some money, enough to begin work on a new home on a lot that was given to them by a relative.

They began construction as soon as they could, but like many residents impacted by this tornado, they were let down by a contractor who over-promised and under-delivered. The volunteer contractor got overwhelmed and abandoned the project, with building materials left unused and exposed to the elements all spring and summer. Qualified contractors are hard to find in this part of Kentucky because they were already overworked before this storm damaged over 1500 homes. Well-meaning volunteers who have good hearts, but less than qualified carpentry skills, have also added to the problem. Licensed contractors have had to come through and fix their mistakes.

Catholic Charities hired Josh, who was experienced in disaster relief, to serve as construction coordinator in Dawson Springs. When Josh visited LaDonna’s and Eddie’s property, he concluded they would have to start from scratch with a new plan: modifying blueprints, returning and reordering building materials and even correcting a poorly planned and poured foundation. LaDonna and Eddie’s disaster case manager Stacey calls construction managers like Josh, “Storm Chasers,” because they go from disaster to disaster, usually living in an RV or trailer and rebuilding storm survivors’ homes. They serve because of a deep sense of call to love God and serve their neighbor through rebuilding their homes. 

On September 30th, 294 days after a record-breaking, devastating tornado ripped across 33 counties in four states, LaDonna and Eddie were able to have a house blessing for their new home. The walls are now up, the trusses are set in place, and there is a roof that will one day be over their heads, keeping them safe from future storms. Soon plumbing and electrical work will be finished and the family will be able to move out of their storage container into their new home.

When the volunteer contractor abandoned the project, a variety of religious and charitable organizations, including IN-KY Disaster Response team, with support from a grant from Lutheran Disaster Response, stepped up. They embraced the family who had been abandoned by their first contractor, by filling in the financial gaps for labor and materials so the new home could be completed.

Thanks to the cooperation and help of these organizations, Eddie and LaDonna’s daughter is already planning how she wants to decorate her new bedroom- just like the ocean with beautiful blue walls and the new mermaid hooks that case manager Stacey found especially for her.  

Construction coordinator Josh in the future “Mermaid Room.” COURTESY OF INDIANA-KENTUCKY SYNOD

This story was originally published in Indiana-Kentucky Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America communications and has been republished with permission. 

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Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
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