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Published: Wednesday, 10/12/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Groups help area family go home

Congregations lend hand to storm victims

BY GABRIELLE RUSSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Elmore church is planning a pancake breakfast to raise money for tornado victims Jean, Ana, and David Hunt. Elmore church is planning a pancake breakfast to raise money for tornado victims Jean, Ana, and David Hunt.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

MILBURY, Ohio --Whenever Jean Hunt hears the sound of a train, that rumbling roar takes her back to that night when she lost practically everything.

For her husband, David Hunt, what triggers his memories is the weather.

Just a few sprinkles of raindrops make him relive seeing the dark shape of the tornado eat up his neighbor's house while he watched from his basement window.

It's been more than a year since the June 5, 2010, storm that killed seven people, destroyed Lake High School, and devastated a community.

But for the Hunts, it's been difficult to move on.

Their rental house was blown apart by the tornado and they lost most of their possessions, except for a few kitchen pans, photographs, some clothes, and Mrs. Hunt's wedding dress. But what's been most difficult is still not having permanent housing, they said.

"We want to be home," said Mr. Hunt, 40, an electric technician at RSW Technologies in Rossford. "Since that night, we haven't been home."

IF YOU GO

What: Pancake breakfast to support the Hunt family. Cost is $3 per person.

When: 7 to 10 a.m., Saturday.

Where: Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, 19225 West Witty Rd., Elmore.

More information: 419-862-3630.

But their story isn't just about how a traumatic event can haunt a family for months afterward or how difficult it is to rebuild a life. It's also a story about the kindness of strangers.

Ten church congregations in Lake Township are helping the Hunts make a down payment so the family can take out a mortgage and build a house.

As part of that effort, there will be a pancake breakfast Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Elmore to donate money for the Hunts' home.

The ministerial alliance discovered the Hunts through the long-term recovery committee, a group of business, community leaders, and others in Wood County who helped the tornado victims recover. The church leaders wanted to find families -- such as the Hunts, who didn't have renter's insurance -- that slipped through the system and couldn't afford to start over.

"We're providing them with some hope," said the Rev. Bob Noble, pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church in Northwood.

The Moline United Methodist Church donated an empty lot -- less than a mile from the Hunts' old home -- for the location of their new house.

It's not the first time strangers have helped the Hunts.

School officials bought Ana Hunt, 17, a new Nintendo 64 and games for Christmas in 2010. A little girl raised about $300 from a lemonade stand to give to them. Others brought food, clothes, and kitchen supplies, and Mrs. Hunt's manager at Midas even donated a house rent-free for six months in Toledo.

"I could sit here and list a 1,000 people I'd like to thank," Mr. Hunt said.

David Hunt looks at the corner of his family's rental house, which  was blown apart by the tornado that hit the area on the night of June 5, 2010. For more than a year, the family has been living in several locations. David Hunt looks at the corner of his family's rental house, which was blown apart by the tornado that hit the area on the night of June 5, 2010. For more than a year, the family has been living in several locations.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

But the Hunts said they feel guilty accepting charity from strangers, something their working-class family isn't used to doing.

"It's a mixed blessing of sorts," Mr. Hunt said.

Mr. Hunt watched the wind suck the blinds out of the bathroom window, the first sign that something was very, very wrong on that June night.

He and his wife ran downstairs to the basement of the farmhouse they rented on Moline-Martin Road in Walbridge.

Their daughter, Ana, was at a friend's house for a sleep- over.

Through the basement window, Mr. Hunt watched a tumbleweed blow across the driveway, like a scene out of a western movie, followed by debris.

He saw a dark shape moving slowly toward his neighbor's ranch house, about 100 yards away, and destroy it.

It happened so slowly, it felt as if time stood still and seconds were really hours, Mr. Hunt said.

But, he said, "I didn't equate it with being a tornado in that instant."

The cars in the Hunts' driveway started to move, and power lines exploded in their yard.

In the next instant, Mrs. Hunt said she heard "the loudest noise you'd ever hear in your life. You can't even describe it."

It was the sound of the howling tornado as it ripped apart the bricks and wooden siding of their farmhouse.

Miraculously, the Hunts and their neighbors were not seriously hurt.

But where the house once stood there was debris. Only the basement walls were still standing.

Cherry and apple trees in their yard were uprooted. A few weeks later, a Jerusalem Township farmer found Mr. Hunt's car bumper tossed in his field.

"To go out there the next day was just ungodly," said Mrs. Hunt, 42, when they surveyed the scene and tried salvage whatever they could.

Most of their possessions were destroyed or lost.

Today, the Hunts said they still miss the little things -- such as their children's christening gowns and a collection of Christmas ornaments Mrs. Hunt wanted to pass on to her two daughters. Mr. Hunt thinks of his favorite Dallas Cowboys jersey and Miss Hunt, a senior at Penta Career Center, remembers a turtle-shaped flute, a souvenir from a family trip to Mexico.

But mostly, they said, they miss that peace of mind that comes with having a place that truly feels like their own.

"You can't believe how homesick you get," Miss Hunt said.

Contact Gabrielle Russon at: grusson@theblade.com or 419-724-6026.



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