Helping Tornado Victims Rebuild
Cummins employees, led by workers at the Columbus Engine Plant (CEP), are making a huge difference in the lives of some southern Indiana tornado victims.
More than 250 employees from Columbus, Walesboro and Seymour in southern Indiana are providing a big share of the muscle behind Habitat for Humanity’s campaign to build 10 homes for families in Henryville, Ind. by the end of December.
The community, tucked along Interstate 65 about 20 miles north of Louisville, Ky., was hard hit by tornados that devastated parts of the state last March.
“This project would not have been possible without wonderful, compassionate corporate giving,” said Gina Leckron, executive director of Habitat for Humanity in Indiana. She cited support from Cummins and Lowe’s home improvement stores as well as the Indiana Conference of United Methodist Churches and the Ogle Foundation based in Clark County, Ind.
“We couldn’t do this work without their donations, but even more importantly without their volunteers,” Leckron added. “And Cummins is a leader on this build in bringing multiple volunteers to help us get the project complete.”
Habitat sponsored a building blitz Oct. 8-12, recruiting more than 1,000 volunteers over the course of the week to get the exteriors of the homes complete. The Columbus Engine Plant bused down 35 to 40 workers each day of the blitz. As the week went on, other Cummins businesses joined the effort including the Hedgehog group based in Seymour, and the Columbus Mid Range Engine Plant in Walesboro.
By the last day of the blitz, the number of Cummins employees working in Henryville swelled to nearly 100. That was far too many for the house sponsored by Cummins, so employees were dispatched to several building sites in the neighborhood.
“The outpouring was incredible,” said Ben Slaton, the Community Involvement Team (CIT) co-leader at the Columbus Engine Plant along with Rob Smith.
“It’s amazing how quickly this all came together,” added Slaton, a Program Coordinator in Cummins Turbo Technologies. “So many people worked so hard to make this happen.”
“The energy from people coming back from Henryville was amazing,” added Margo Rout, Human Resources Manager for the Engine Business’ Viking Project at CEP and the “master scheduler” for the project. “People were saying, ‘I want to go back.’”
By the end of the blitz, the exteriors of the 10 new homes in the Twin Oaks subdivision were complete with the exception of some brick work that will be done by professional contractors.
Contractors will also finish a lot of the interior work. The CEP Community Involvement Team, however, plans to continue sending workers until the houses are finished. By mid-December, families are expected to move into the 10 new homes in Henryville. The project is expected to cost nearly $1 million.
Habitat is a faith-based organization dedicated to increasing the amount of decent, affordable housing around the world. The group depends on volunteer labor from corporations, churches and other groups. In addition, the families who will own the houses provide “sweat equity,” working side-by-side with the volunteers as their homes are built.
The house sponsored by Cummins with a $50,000 grant from The Cummins Foundation will be owned by Kris and Steven Sullivan, who have a 12-year-old son and a newborn baby boy. Their older son was ill on March 2 and would normally have stayed home by himself, his mother says.
However, rather than have him stay home and play video games all day, she insisted he go to his grandma’s house. Later that day, the tornado destroyed most of the house they were renting and nearly all of their possessions.
“It was a blessing by God that he wasn’t there home alone,” Kris Sullivan said.
That wasn’t the only blessing since the tornado. She feels blessed by the birth of her son two months ago and by the Cummins employees who are working so hard to make her family’s dream of a home of their own come true.
“These people don’t even know me,” she said as the house was built. “I keep telling them, ‘you don’t even know me.’ It’s just incredible.”
For their part, Cummins employees say they got a lot more out of the blitz than they invested in physical labor.
“This has been a fantastic experience,” said Scott Grant, the Customer Care Leader for Viking at CEP who was in Henryville Oct. 12 for a second day of work that week. “I got the chance to work with the family that will own the house. I met so many people I didn’t know. I liked it so much, I came back.”
“I feel very proud to be a part of Cummins,” said Soumee Roy, an Aftertreatment Integration Engineer in the Engine Business. “Though my contribution was only a drop in the ocean, we as a team can not only rebuild houses but also help rebuild dreams.”