Every nail at MDS mission driven home in love for Dayton families

Every nail at MDS mission driven home in love for Dayton families

Image Credit: Dave Mast

Adam Blake stood to the side of the housing construction taking place Friday, Oct. 15, watching as volunteers with Ohio Disaster Service and Mennonite Disaster Service erected another set of walls near the lumber yard at Keim in Charm.

Blake marveled at the ease with which the volunteers worked and the cohesive teamwork that took place almost through unspoken words.

Blake said his heart was soaring as he watched the men work, not because the home they were building was for him, but because five of the seven homes they were building would become permanent homes for families that had lost their living quarters to a Memorial Day tornado that blew through Dayton in 2019.

According to Blake, the vice president of housing for County Corp, the area of Dayton has not seen a disaster of this magnitude since the flood of 1917, so there was no preparing for the devastation that took place.

Blake said County Corp is an organization that creates affordable housing for families that might not otherwise be able to afford it, noting more than 1,400 renters were displaced in the storm, and the process of rebuilding their lives through affordable housing is a slow but vital process.

He said while they have helped many of the homeowners rebuild their damaged or destroyed homes, there are families who are continuing to live with family and friends, two years after the tornadoes wreaked havoc on their lives.

Blake said County Corp created a home-ownership program to not only provide families with a new home, but also walk with these families through the building and purchasing process. Blake said the homeowners are taking out loans to purchase the homes, which are built at a very affordable cost, and the funds generated will go right back into the County Corp effort to work with other families in need.

He said the program is only possible through the volunteering of skilled laborers such as the groups from Ohio Disaster Service and Mennonite Disaster Service, who allow their individual skills to touch other people’s lives.

They also receive state, federal and local funds to help move the homes through the building process and purchase lots on which many of the houses were destroyed in the tornado, reinvesting so those families can find a permanent home.

“The families go through an educational process through the Home Ownership Center of Greater Dayton, which provides financial fitness training,” Blake said. “They provide classes for first-time homeowners.”

Blake said County Corp is working on a total of 20 homes, and while it provides a roof over each participating family’s head, the hope is even greater things will arise from the effort.

“Our hope is that in the process we can change the trajectory of generational poverty,” Blake said. “Our first home buyer will actually be a single parent who is a veteran, who as one of nine children will be the first person in her family to ever own a home.”

Stories like this one are the reason Blake stood in awe as dozens of volunteers scurried about, sawing, nailing, hammering and building the walls and tresses for each home.

While it may seem odd to erect the structural part of the homes from nearly across the state, Blake said it was because of Keim’s gesture to provide the workspace and room necessary to build.

“It’s amazing to think that Keim has given us the room to build these homes in two days,” Blake said. “And these volunteers are amazing. Through their ministry and their love for their neighbors, they are using their gifts to serve others. I am so impressed that they consider the unfortunate people who went through this disaster in Dayton their neighbors. I asked one of the group leaders why they do this, and he told me it is their culture. Helping others in need is what they believe.”

Gideon Yoder served as the foreman for Ohio Disaster Service, and he said, “People are hurting, and when that happens, none of these volunteers think twice. They just jump into action and serve because that is what we are called to do by God,” Yoder said.

While Blake was mesmerized by the beauty of the scenery of Holmes County, a place he had never visited before, what really struck him as beautiful was the heart of the people.

Blake said while volunteers at Keim were building the frames for the homes, which will be shipped down to Dayton on Dec. 1, this type of endeavor not only benefits the homeowners, but also the trade workers in Dayton who will do the H-VAC, plumbing, electrician work and other aspects of work that go into a home build. County Corp pays for the lumber and the trade work on each home.

As for the homes, each is a vernacular design created to fit on to the lots available in Dayton. The homes are three-bedroom, two-bath structures. They are energy efficient and are 1,200 square feet.

In providing these homes, the entire endeavor — from funding, to volunteer workers, to walking with new homeowners and holding their hands through the entire process while showering them with compassion and understanding — is truly what all three organizations involved in the build promote.