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Archive for Sunday, February 17, 2008

Greensburg’s Main Street begins new life today

February 17, 2008

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— This tornado-shattered town's Main Street begins its rebirth today with the dedication of its first rebuilt structure.

The Care-N-Share thrift store and food pantry will reopen a block south of its original location, restoring a needed source of emergency assistance.

"The first building on Main Street is about giving. It's not about taking or making any money," said Rogers Strickland, whose Olathe-based nonprofit agency built the 5,000-square foot building with the help of 20 companies and 100 workers.

The Kiowa County Ministerial Alliance, a group of 14 churches, has operated the story and pantry for more than 25 years, using the annual profits of $15,000 to $20,000 for emergency assistance payments and distributing groceries to about 20 needy families a month.

It, like most of Greensburg, was destroyed by a tornado in May. The alliance realized it would need help rebuilding as insurance provided just $52,000 and the structure, erected in the 1910s or 1920s, needed a lot of work.

Strickland's Side by Side has been putting up buildings in needy communities for 10 years, traveling as far as Sri Lanka for projects. It also helped rebuilding efforts in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina.

The Care-N-Share "was exactly what I wanted," Strickland said. "It benefited the whole community, not one church."

The group signed the construction contract for the $52,000 in insurance money, but Strickland estimates the project was valued at $350,000 in donated labor and materials.

John Sheehy, who owns Summit Masonry in Independence, Mo., sent six workers to Greensburg to build the store's brick facade, which was meant to match the old downtown's look.

He estimated the job was worth about $25,000, including donations from suppliers.

"I share the same philosophy that Rogers has," Sheehy said. "I do it because I can. I just feel that when I can go do these things, it always comes back to me in ways I don't even know."

Strickland said the volunteers met on Sunday mornings with nearby residents before heading back to the Kansas City area to explain who they were and why they were helping. The residents would then describe what they have gone through in rebuilding their lives.

"There is no way to measure the blessing they have been to our community," said the Rev. Marvin George, pastor of Greensburg's First Baptist Church and president of the ministerial alliance.

George called the construction "phenomenal" as workers continued through days of heavy snow and winds, at one point having to chip through an inch of ice to install the roof.

"Every other construction effort came to a screeching halt, and they were still working," said George, who waited out the new building by meeting people at the nearby Quick Shop to pay for their groceries.

Greensburg Mayor John Janssen said the reopening of the Care-N-Share was important as so many residents are struggling. He also said he was impressed with how it was built with the help of so many volunteers from around the state.

"It restores your faith in humanity; it really does," he said.

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