Indiana UMs volunteer for Habitat Blitz Build

By Daniel R. Gangler, Special Contributor

HENRYVILLE, Ind.—Hoosier United Methodists joined with corporations and other groups on Oct. 8 to kick off with Habitat for Humanity of Indiana a million-dollar “Raise the Roof Over Southern Indiana” Blitz Build project in Henryville’s south-side Twin Oaks subdivision.

The houses are for survivors whose homes were destroyed by the deadly, March 2 tornadoes that ripped through this and other small southern Indiana towns and communities in a 40-mile path of destruction.

Homes in the Habitat blitz go to those whose dwellings were destroyed by tornadoes last March. PHOTOS COURTESY INDIANA CONFERENCE

Habitat gave Indiana United Methodist Bishop Mike Coyner the honor of leading the first-day devotion for the more than 250 volunteers, observers and reporters from around the state and nation who were on hand to begin framing the 10 houses.

In his remarks given in a brightly colored large tent under cold, cloudy skies shortly after 8 a.m., Bishop Coyner used the story of Jesus forgiving and healing the paralyzed man told in the second chapter of Mark’s Gospel.

He said according to Scripture, when Jesus saw the faith of the four men who brought the paralyzed man, he forgave and healed him.

Bishop Coyner then asked the volunteers, “Have you ever been carried by faith?” He then related a time in his own life when he and his wife, Marsha, were young adults and Marsha became very ill. They were carried by the faith of others to survive their ordeal, he recalled.

“You are the folks who are carrying others in faith today,” he said.

Following a prayer for health, safety and thanks, the volunteers went with their families to one of the 10 houses, ready to lift outer walls into place.

Besides Hoosiers, Habitat volunteers also came from California, Maine, Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin and other states.

More than 250 volunteers showed up on the first day of the blitz to begin construction on 10 houses. PHOTOS COURTESY INDIANA CONFERENCE

Gina Leckron, state director of Habitat for Humanity of Indiana, will continue to coordinate the build through her office in Indianapolis. She said building all the homes on previously vacant lots in a single subdivision allowed Habitat to pool materials and other resources at one location.

She went on to say that the homes are designed to withstand winds of up to 140 miles-per-hour. Homes in Indiana built to code are only constructed to withstand winds of 90 miles-per-hour.

Hoosier United Methodists sponsored two houses with a $100,000 contribution from the Indiana Conference Disaster Response Fund. Other major sponsors included Home Improvement, the Ogle Foundation, Cummins Inc., the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, and the state builders and bankers associations. Habitat is still seeking a sponsor for the 10th house.

Colleen Breslin, an AmeriCorps volunteer helping to manage hundreds of volunteers in the area, had been doing site preparation in the subdivision for a month and planned to remain at the site into November, adding the finishing touches.

Bishop Michael Coyner of the Indiana Conference led opening day devotions for the Habitat for Humanity blitz building project in southern Indiana. PHOTOS COURTESY INDIANA CONFERENCE

“We’ll be here until Nov. 2, so we have another three weeks after the Blitz week,” said Ms. Breslin, of Philadelphia.

‘Yeah, it’s real!’

Bishop Coyner, the Rev. LeKisha Reed, associate director of Mission and Advocacy for the Indiana Conference, the Rev. David Powell, coordinator of the Indiana Conference Disaster Response Team, and more than 20 other United Methodists became acquainted with the Vicky Guernsey and Anthony and Melissa Nasby families of Henryville as they joined volunteers in the building of their houses. The Rev. Michelle Cobb, North Central District superintendent, also volunteered her services during the blitz build week.

Ms. Guernsey, mother of three girls, told reporters, “It’s overwhelming; it’s amazing. With every step of this I’ve said, ‘Oh, this is too good to be true,’ and then they put the sign up front and of course I took a picture of it, and yeah, it’s real!”

Anthony Nasby said, “I got to drive a nail in the first wall we put up, so that was great.”

His wife Melissa commented, “Yeah, it’s great to be able to work on our home and know what goes on and putting a house together.”

Two of the Habitat houses have been financed by a $100,000 contribution from the Indiana Conference Disaster Response Fund. PHOTOS COURTESY INDIANA CONFERENCE

They’re also putting their lives back together with their four children.

“My oldest son just got out of school 10 minutes before the tornado hit. He got home just in time,” Anthony Nasby said.

The Guernsey and Nasby families and the other eight families are purchasing their homes interest-free from Habitat—and they’re all putting in 200 hours of “sweat equity” to help build their homes.

The goal of the project is to have all the families moved into their new homes by mid-December, making their new homes quite the Christmas present.

Information on the project, including a picture gallery and slide show, can be found at

Dr. Gangler serves as director of communication for the Indiana Conference. Information from WLKY and the Louisville Courier-Journal was used in this story.

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to

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