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World Renew At Work Repairing Century Tornado Damage

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

"Restoring home and hope" is the mission of World Renew personnel who returned to Escambia County last month. 

More than 150 homes in the Century area were damaged or destroyed last February, when an EF-3 tornado crashed through town with 155 mph winds.

Enter, or rather re-enter,World Renew, a ministry of the Christian Reform Church headquartered in Michigan. They’re assisting in rebuilding the parts of Century most affected by the storm. This particular day, they’re partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build a home on Century Parkway to replace a trailer destroyed by the tornado.

“I was up here shortly after it happened, and saw the mobile home that was destroyed,” said Ken Evans, the construction supervisor with World Renew’s Disaster Response Services known as “The Green Shirts.”

“Our crew got to meet the family the other day which was a great thing,” Evans said. “It gives them a lot of incentive when they meet the actual folks involved.”

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
"Green Shirts" supervisor Ken Evans.

This is relatively familiar territory for World Renew. Workers were here just after Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and after the massive flooding in 2014.

The Green Shirts will rotate in and out of Century about every three weeks, with people from across North America taking part until next spring. Among them is Dirk Vanhoort from Featherton, New Brunswick. He and his wife joined World Renew as a part of their faith.

“We come for three reasons; God has been very good to us and we want to share with others,” said Vanhoort. “We joy of doing that; we get joy when we see the homeowners, and we get joy when we go to bed at night because we are dead tired.”

Work began last Monday on the three-bedroom house: Design Plan-16 in Habitat parlance. Wayne Klemme, a construction crew leader for Pensacola’s Habitat chapter, says they’re acting on one change that was requested by the homeowner.

“There’s one spot where we typically have an exterior access storage closet on the outside,” said Klemme. “And we have closed that door off since we already have a storage unit on the property to add more area to the inside of the house.”

Along with the guys working on the house’s framework were about a half-dozen women, wielding hammers at the back of the structure. Mieda Miles has been with Habitat for six years. She says 2016 has been a busy year for Habitat, and not all of the work has been started from scratch.

“We’ve been doing a lot of rehabs this year,” said Miles. “Houses that we got back from people that either moved out of them or for some reason couldn’t keep it. We’ve been refurbishing them and putting them back in the program.”

After the World Renew and Habitat crews finish with the house’s framing the subcontractors: electrical, plumbing and the like, begin their work.