By Martha Helton
Photos provided by the Habitat for Humanity of Hood County, Carol Davidson, Brian Donnachie, Martha Helton and Landi Whitefield Photography

Dark, ominous clouds swirled and the atmosphere turned strange. Pelting rain and hail that reached the size of cantaloupes smashed the ground. Sirens blared. The evening of May 15, 2013 turned out to be anything but ordinary for the Rancho Brazos community in Granbury, Texas. An EF4 tornado, with winds raging up to 200 mph, wreaked its devastation, hurling mobile homes in the air and killing six people in its path; of the 157 homes destroyed or severely damaged, 59 were built by Habitat for Humanity. All but one Habitat home had homeowner’s insurance.

In the aftermath, families found themselves displaced and shocked amidst the chaos of destruction. The Habitat for Humanity board of directors and volunteers were shaken as well and scrambled to help bring order for their Habitat families. Though tragic, earthly and heavenly miracles strengthened their spirits to see them through.

“I was just devastated like everyone else was,” board member Sallye Vela recalled. “What made me particularly sad is that I was home that evening working on preparing the dedication brochure for a house we had just finished that day. All the work that had gone into that house, a family that was so ready to move into their new home, I felt for them. It was heartbreaking for all of us.”

Habitat for Humanity of Hood County, established in August 1996, is a non-profit Christian housing ministry. Through volunteer labor and donations of money, materials, and services, Habitat builds simple, decent houses (usually 4-5 per year) with the help of the homeowner (partner) families. These houses are sold to partner families at no profit and financed with affordable loans. The homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments are used to build still more Habitat houses.


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