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Archive for Saturday, December 22, 2007

Town gets help rebuilding flood-damaged homes

December 22, 2007

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— In the spirit of the popular TV show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," businesses, churches and residents are pitching in to rebuild this eastern Kansas town damaged from flooding this summer.

A crowd of 100 people gathered outside Carolyn Jones' refurbished house on Thursday and yelled, "Move that bus!"

When the yellow school bus moved, Jones saw the small, one-story home her co-workers at the Team Bank in Paola had rebuilt.

Another Osawatomie family, the Wastlunds, were presented with the architectural plans to their new house on Sunday from BreakPointe Community Church in Overland Park, which has helped repair and rebuild several homes here.

The July 1 flood damaged more than 400 homes in Osawatomie, including Jones, who left her home six months ago when there was 4 feet of floodwater inside.

Jones saw her remodeled house for the first time Thursday, putting her hands to her face. She staggered for a second as the crowd continued to cheer and applaud.

"I don't know what to say," Jones told the crowd. "It's a whole different house. That doesn't look like the same house. I love everybody."

On Sunday, Hannah Wastlund's dream of a home makeover began unfolding.

The Rev. Tom Kinnan, pastor of BreakPointe church, surprised Hannah, 14, and her family with the plans during the church's Extreme Christmas celebration at the Overland Park Convention Center.

"I think it's really nice for them to do that," Hannah said. "I'm excited."

Hannah wrote the "Extreme Makeover" TV show almost two years ago, asking that her family be considered for a new house. To the family's surprise, a producer from the show called to say they were among several finalists in Kansas.

The 75-year-old house they were living in had foundation problems and mold behind the walls. Hannah had undergone a liver transplant and the family needed a mold-free home to protect the girl's fragile health.

But those hopes were washed away in the July flood. Her parents, Angela and John Wastlund, a pastor at the Wesleyan church in Osawatomie, decided it wasn't fair for the family to receive a new home while their neighbors' houses were in shambles.

So they withdrew from consideration for the show.

That got the attention of Kinnan and the BreakPointe church, which decided to help the Wastlund family and six of their neighbors. Two of the homes will be rebuilt and five refurbished.

"We've had people from all over Kansas and Missouri coming to Osawatomie to help us with this project," John Wastlund said. "It's really humbling to think that all those people would sacrifice their weekends to come in and work very hard."

Rob Roberts, who leads the nonprofit Miami County-Osawatomie Long Term Recovery Team, said 424 homes were damaged in the flood and that the BreakPointe project chose seven of the most heavily damaged to rehabilitate or rebuild.

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