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

The women of Mennonite Disaster Service present a quilt to the Jarboe family, (from left) Jennifer, Timothy, Annabell, Nathan and Michael, during their home dedication ceremony March 23 in Dawson Springs. The Jarboes’ home was built by Catholic Charities through a partnership with Mennonite Disaster Service. COURTESY OF STACEY MENSER

God is ‘pulling us all together’

Homeowners rise empowered from tornado destruction


God is at work in western Kentucky.

“And he is pulling us all together,” said Mike Stuckey of Mennonite Disaster Service, a nationwide organization of the Anabaptist tradition that sends volunteers to repair and rebuild homes in disaster-impacted communities.

A partnership between Stuckey’s organization (MDS) and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Owensboro has resulted in five new homes dedicated in four months in Dawson Springs, one of the communities devastated by the Dec. 10, 2021, tornado.

Catholic Charities’ initial mission in Dawson Springs was to provide case management to tornado survivors. As Catholic Charities case managers assessed clients’ needs, it became clear new homes for uninsured and underinsured households was one of the greatest needs.

In September 2022, Catholic Charities hired Ohio native Josh Hipp to oversee home builds sponsored by the diocese. Hipp has 12 years’ experience as a disaster recovery construction manager in communities impacted by tornadoes and hurricanes. He brought not only his expertise, but also his connections with organizations like MDS that provide skilled volunteer labor for new home builds.

“Since MDS got here in January, we’ve completed five homes start to finish; and we have four more houses dried-in. So that’s nine under roof so far,” said Hipp.

The first home dedication jointly sponsored by Catholic Charities and Mennonite Disaster Service was held March 2, 2023, for the Hooper family on Industrial Park Road.

Mike Stuckey of Mennonite Disaster Service (left) asks new homeowner James Moore to sign the final job card of his house as Catholic Charities case manager Lori Wooton looks on. COURTESY OF STACEY MENSER

By the end of the month, Hipp and MDS had four additional homes completed and ready to hand over to the homeowners.

On March 23, MDS volunteers from Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan, joined with Catholic Charities staff from across western Kentucky to dedicate the home of Michael and Jennifer Jarboe, and their children, ages 16, 13, and 10.

Deacon Mike Marsili offered a blessing over the home, and MDS volunteers offered songs of praise. Hipp had the honor of handing the keys to the new homeowners.

“So many hands have touched this home,” Stuckey said during the ceremony. “Some are here today; some were here last week; some were here last month; some have been here for 15 months trying to help families like this one recover from this devastating tornado.”

When homeowner Michael Jarboe spoke, he mentioned one of the people who had been there since day one serving the people of his community.

“If it hadn’t been for Ms. Lori Wooton with Catholic Charities, I don’t know where we would be today,” he said.

Wooton, a retired school counselor and resident of Dawson Springs, was the first case manager hired by Catholic Charities to serve tornado survivors in Hopkins County. Not only did she help the Jarboe family with a new home, but she also served as case manager for the three families whose homes were dedicated the following week.

On March 29, Catholic Charities and MDS gathered on Hall Street for two home dedications. On one side of the street, James Moore and his two children, Conner and Payton, received the keys to their house. Across the street, homeowner Stephanie Blayer said she was ready to move out of her FEMA trailer and into her new house as soon as Hipp gave her the keys. On Saturday, April 1, Catholic Charities and MDS gathered once again to celebrate the dedication of a home for Ava Lacy on Railroad Avenue.

Hipp said the next four Catholic Charities/MDS homes, currently under construction, will be completed by the end of the summer, and another round of new home builds will begin in the fall.

“We will have 15 homes built in this town by May 2024,” he said. “That’s what Catholic Charities has committed to do, and we’re making it happen.”

Stacey Menser is a case manager with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Owensboro.

Deacon Mike Marsili offers a blessing over two new homes built by Catholic Charities on Hall Street in Dawson Springs. COURTESY OF STACEY MENSER

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

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Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
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