Actually, while on the same plot of land where their previous residence stood before the spring 2011 storms struck, the Burns are in a house that is brand new to them.
The Burnses recently became the recipients of the seventh fully-built home made possible through the Long-Term Recovery Organization and those working with and donating to that organization.
“We are very excited,” said Sara Beth at the home dedication in late September. “We are so blessed … we never thought that we could have something this nice.”
The Burns family had actually been away from their Randolph Samples Road most of that April day, returning not long before the last round of tornado activity hit around 8:40 p.m.
“We had just gotten home,” Travis Burns remembered. “We got here, got the kids ready for bed, and then it hit. It picked us up from the back of the house and threw us about 150 feet into the front yard.”
The force of the storms destroyed their home, as well as the adjacent home belonging to Sara Beth’s grandparents. While the grandparents were able to rebuild, Travis and Sara Beth did not have the means to do so.
So, up to last month, the couple, along with their two children (Hayden and Addie-Kate) lived in very cramped quarters — much too small for a family.
“It’s been all four of us in one room for 17 months, so this will be nice,” Sara Beth said.
Eventually, the family was referred to the LTRO to look at helping them with their needs.
“I think that we were all impressed that they had saved $10,000 from insurance for a year, trying to get a home,” said Jim Polier, LTRO Recovery director.
The Bradley Baptist Association was the lead contractor on building this home. They were joined by other churches and relief groups connected with the BBA in the building project. Polier said that this was a true community effort, even if many volunteers were from different communities. When they arrived in Cleveland to help with this home, he said, we all became neighbors in spirit and in action.
“This home represents what community is,” Polier said. “There are crews coming in from local churches, and from churches outside the area, to help.”
Polier added that Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland was very instrumental in the project.
“There were so many involved in this home build, including Travis and Sarabeth working alongside with the others,” he added.
The Burnses were so pleased to see others spending their time working on a home for a family they have never met. It makes the new home even more special.
“The people, the community, the workers, everybody helping us out— it was such a blessing to have so many helping us get into our home,” said Sara Beth.
Lisa Mantooth, LTRO case manager supervisor, said the families and individuals receiving these new homes are so appreciative, and she gets a special feeling watching them move into their homes.
“I have been so touched at every one of these groundbreaking and ribbon cutting ceremonies … they are all so special,” Mantooth said. For a mother of two young boys, watching the Burns family move in was extremely special to her.
“It’s a blessing for our community to be able to help this very young family to recover and move to their ‘new normal,’ and to see the children as they move into their new home,” Mantooth said.
“To see the tears in Sara Beth’s eyes when the keys were presented to her was very moving for everyone who was there. It was a special day.”
Possibly the comment that touched Mantooth the most related to the young son Hayden.
“Sara Beth’s grandmother said there had been a walking path worn out between the house (the Burns family) lived in and their house from where her great-grandson would run over and run back and forth,” she said. “I would say by spring there will be another path worn out between the two homes.”
The Burnses are thankful they and their children now have a place to call home once again.
“Thank you to everyone involved in helping us get into our new home,” Travis said. “This has been truly, truly a blessing.”
The Burns family has moved into the seventh home built through the coordination of the LTRO.
Janet Randolph’s new home on Lee Street, which will be dedicated very soon, will be No. 8, while Edna Morgan’s home, which is presently being built, will be No. 9.
“Every time we see her (Morgan), it is just unbelievable … her gratitude is so touching,” Polier said.
Morgan’s home is being built on property owned by her family for years. In fact, her new home will be within a half-mile to mile of the Burnses’ home.
“Her home sustained a significant amount of damage from the storm, and she didn’t have any way to recover,” Mantooth explained. She added Morgan has custody of her two grandchildren, so getting her into an adequate home was very important.
Mantooth said local builder Charlotte Jones of KACE Developments contacted the LTRO on Morgan’s behalf, and it was decided that a new home was warranted. A groundbreaking ceremony was held at the site of that new home in September, and the home should be completed in November or December.
One more home build is scheduled before the end of 2012, Mantooth noted. Hopes are that this home might be completed before Christmas.
“That would be special, as it would coincide with the anniversary of our first home build,” she said. In December 2011, the Tim Garrett family was the first to move into a new LTRO home, moving in just before Christmas.
“What a wonderful way to end the year if we can get this home dedicated around the same time this year,” Mantooth said. “If that works out, we can even use the same theme – ‘Home for Christmas’ – that was so appropriate last year.”