April 1, 2023 | Local News
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Deacon Mike Marsili blesses the Hooper home and family during their home dedication on March 2, 2023. COURTESY OF STACEY MENSER

‘A living fellowship’

Ecumenical partnership completes home for Dawson Springs family


Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Owensboro joined with Mennonite Disaster Service on March 2 for the first of many home dedications planned by the two organizations in Dawson Springs.

Eddie, Ladonna and Tori Hooper were surrounded by new and old friends as Deacon Mike Marsili offered a blessing over their home and Mennonite volunteers raised songs of praise and read scripture.

“This home is a symbol of how successful partnerships can be when we work together,” said Jonathan Short of Mennonite Disaster Service from Ohio. “Home is not merely a dwelling, but a living fellowship.”

The Hoopers were like thousands of Kentuckians who lost their homes in the Dec. 10, 2021 tornado.

And like most tornado survivors, the Hoopers started down an unknown and often frustrating path to recovery.

Within days of the tornado, volunteers from across the state and country arrived in Dawson Springs offering to help any way they could. It was during that time that the Hoopers were approached by a contractor who wanted to build them a house.

The family had some insurance money coming to them, but not enough to build a house. They were assured donated materials and volunteer labor could make up the difference and get them in a new home in no time.

The exterior of the Hooper family’s home, which was dedicated on March 2, 2023. COURTESY OF STACEY MENSER

The family put over $40,000 toward building materials, hired a subcontractor to pour their foundation, and then they sat and waited.

By August 2022, no work had been done on their home.

It was August when the Hoopers decided to reach out to Catholic Charities for case management assistance. The number one need of every tornado survivor is a guide to walk beside them on the path to recovery. That is what Catholic Charities case managers do. They walk beside tornado survivors and match them up with the resources and assistance they need.

What the Hoopers needed was a house, and Catholic Charities was ready to make that happen. Josh Hipp, construction manager for the Pennyrile region, took charge of the Hooper home build. As he began ordering materials and coordinating labor, the Hoopers’ case manager, Stacey Menser, sought funding from various organizations — American Red Cross, Convoy of Hope, Lutheran Disaster Services, Knights of Columbus, private individuals and area churches, as well as Catholic Charities itself.

“God knows when you need things, and God puts people in your life right when you need them,” said Ladonna Hooper. “If it hadn’t been for the tornado and everything we went through, we never would have met these people and formed these relationships. And if it hadn’t been for Josh and Catholic Charities, we would not be in this home today.”

Hipp currently has five homes under construction with Mennonite Disaster Service volunteers and plans to complete up to 15 homes in the community within the next year as long as funding is available. The Hoopers are the first of many families whose lives will be blessed because of the collaboration.

“Life is amazing,” said Ladonna Hooper. “If you keep looking toward God, life does become amazing for you.”

Originally printed in the April 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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