The Yarbers lost three homes and a family member on April 27, 2011. Lisa Yarber Pack died from injuries sustained when her mobile home was completely destroyed by an EF-4 tornado. Her two daughters are still recovering from serious injuries.
Lisa’s brother, Brian, said Friday was a day of mixed emotions.
“It’s a sad day because we lost my sister, but it’s also a joyful day because she’s gone on to be with the Lord and we’re here on earth,” he said. “We’re going to dedicate this house in her memory. This is where her trailer was. We lost her and three homes and we’re just going to make the best of it. The main goal of this house is to get the family back together. We’ve always been a strong family.”
He said Lisa was the one all the kids came to with problems. She was a sister and a friend.
“I miss her every day. Ain’t a day goes by that I don’t think about her,” he said. “She always said I was the rock, but she was the glue that held us all together. I’ve kind of been the rock and the glue.”
Brian said he put what money he had into building the new house, but he could have never done it without Men and Women of Action, the Long-Term Recovery Organization, Whirlpool, Cleveland Family YMCA, Santek Environmental, Greenway Table, Ron Barker and all of the countless other volunteers, churches and businesses.
“It’s here. You see it in front of you and I consider that an answer to prayer,” he said.
Charles Hollifield was one of the first people on the scene on Wednesday morning, the day after the storm. The sun was shining and Brian Yarber was out in the field among the carnage. In addition to the loss of his sister, Brian had lost his home as did his parents, Ron and Stella.
“I was standing in amongst all this mess. This whole thing was covered in mess. I was standing here scratching my head and I was squalling and said, ‘God, how am I going to clean this mess up?’ This man, Charles Hollifield came down the driveway, gets out of the truck, introduces himself and said, ‘God sent me down here,’” Brian said. “That’s an answer to prayer. Now you can’t get no better than that.”
Hollifield said, “I told him I felt impressed by the Lord to come here, so I came and wanted to know if there was anything I could do for you.”
Brian asked, “What can you do?”
“I said, ‘Well, I can get done what you can’t do if you’ll give me permission,’” Hollifield replied.
According to Hollifield, Brian was doubtful and said, “I don’t think you can. You don’t see the same sight I’m seeing. All I’m seeing is death and devastation.”
But, Hollifield replied that instead of devastation, he saw an opportunity to serve. Brian gave Hollifield permission and he returned Sunday morning with seven men and heavy equipment. They held a prayer service and then went to work.
“We worked all day that Sunday and separated all of the materials,” Hollifield said. “After we got it separated, I began hauling it away. I spent 10 weeks here getting ready for what we have here today.”
What they had Friday was the dedication of a 1,500-square-foot house with five bedrooms and three baths in which the close-knit family rebuilt their lives and a place they can call home.
“The Church of God Men and Women of Action is who I was representing and this is what the Lord put in our hearts,” Hollifield said of the house. “Along with the help of Bradley County, the city of Cleveland, all of the churches of our community — it was a vision God put in the hearts of all of us. Now we have the finished product God put in us.”
He said the vision in their hearts became a dream and that hope is now a reality for the Yarber family.
Long-Term Recovery Organization Director Jim Polier said the original floor plan was for a four-bedroom house because the family agreed to live together. However, Brian’s oldest son, Matthew, has lost one eye to cancer and for the past year has been living in a small, windowless building behind a travel trailer where his parents live. The building is equipped with air conditioning and a shower.
“He was injured in the storm too, but if his health went south, I couldn’t see him being down there with the rest of the family being up here,” Polier said.
Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland used the floor plan of a four-bedroom structure and expanded it to five bedrooms and three baths.
Polier said because Brian has had about 20 operations on his back, handicapped-accessible ramps and a carport were added.
“We have both Matthew and Brian who could have problems so we wanted some place for them to come in where they wouldn’t be in the weather,” he said.
Brian said everyone has been wonderful. “Some of these guys have been in their 80s who came out and worked. They might not work but a couple of hours, but they came out and worked. They didn’t complain about the heat or the cold. A team from Florida framed the house. Of course, it was 80 degrees down there and it was 30-something degrees here. They was about to freeze to death, but they got it done.”
A contractor was hired to do the wallboard because Kenny Kincaid, a volunteer from Illinois had to go back home the day he arrived because of his wife’s open-heart surgery. Though she told him to stay and finish the job, Brian urged him to go back home.
“I told him, ‘I ain’t going to go against your wife, but I think you need to be with your wife,’” Brian said. “Charles wasn’t supposed to be here today for the dedication ceremony. His daddy is in Asheville, N.C. He had a massive stroke and he’s laying up there not knowing if he’s going to live or die tonight or tomorrow.”
Hollifield said he had been visiting his father for three days, but God impressed on him to attend the home dedication on Friday.
“You just don’t know what it means to have a man like that to show you the love of God,” Brian said.
United Way of Bradley County President/CEO Matt Ryerson said in his opening remarks that the day was bittersweet in that nine lives were lost 365 days ago.
“We lost nine friends, nine neighbors and nine family members that day and that’s not something that’s going to disappear,” he said.
After the community entered the recovery mode and the search began for people who needed support, Ryerson said they were using the term “victims of the storm. We met with one such person who stopped me and pulled me aside and said — I’m not a victim. I’m a survivor.”