By Michaela Marx Wheatley
The Moore American
MOORE — Two Moore families who had lost everything in the May 20 tornado experienced their own version of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Saturday.
The Virginia-based nonprofit God’s Pit Crew and Riverlife Church revealed two debt-free, fully furnished new homes for the Rogers and Evans families displaced by the devastating tornado.
These families had not seen the property so the reveal was a surprise for the parents and children.
Shortly after 9 a.m., a blindfolded Evans family was shuttled into their new neighborhood. More than 50 volunteers, friends and family lined the street as a massive truck blocked the view of the new home. The onlookers shouted, “move that truck” and as the big machine rolled forward the family caught the first glimpse of their new home.
Tears ran down mom Michelle Evans’ face when she got ready to give her three children the first tour of the home.
A few minutes later they reemerged through the garage. Evans hugged her way through the crowd waiting outside, but the youngest family member, Dayton, was ready to return to his room to play.
She struggled to find words.
“I don’t know how I am, actually,” she said.
“I am so emotional,” Evans added. “I am going to miss those guys,” she said pointing at the volunteers.
“We’re not leaving. We’re staying for supper,” said somebody in the crowd.
Evans face lit up.
“OK,” she said. “I just found out I have dishes.”
Five months ago, Evans — a single mother of three — had nothing. Her rental home near Plaza Towers had been destroyed by the tornado. She and her kids only had minutes to collect some of their belongings into a trash bag before authorities ushered them out of the neighborhood due to safety reasons. A day later she lost her job because she couldn’t tell her employer when she would be able to return to work.
She came to Riverlife because she saw them serving warm meals. She started talking with a volunteer, Cathy Carpenter, who introduced her to pastor Greg Garvie.
Garvie said plans were not totally in place for the homes when he met Evans, but he really felt she was a good candidate. He used church funds to secure temporary housing, and they waited to get word from the pit crew board of directors.
Saturday, all of those who had helped Evans earlier were there to celebrate her as she took possession of her new home.
An hour later the neighbors moved in. Again an SUV rolled up and the Rogers family emerged from the vehicle. “Move that truck” echoed through the neighborhood and the family got to see their new home.
When the family returned from the walk-through of their new home the emotions were raw.
“This is the biggest blessing,” said dad George Rogers. “Everybody gets tested, but somebody is there to watch out for you.”
Garvie had picked the Rogers from among other families that he had interviewed and recommended to the pit crew board of directors.
The pit stop team arrived in Moore on Oct. 1. In less than 19 days they built two new homes with the help of 80 volunteers and mostly donated materials.
“On Oct. 2, all we had was a slab of concrete,” said Al Robey, a God’s Pit Crew member.
The homes were built concurrently. A tall order, but the team got it done.
“To see Michelle’s face this morning makes it all worth it,” he said.
This was the team’s second visit to Moore. They had arrived only days after the tornado and helped with debris cleanup, delivered materials and made repairs.
It became clear that the team wanted to return and build homes for Moore.
Despite the short time frame they had to build the homes, they paid great attention to detail. The rooms of the Rogers’ boys reflect their likes. Oklahoma State University football memorabilia decks out the older boy’s room while the youngest got a baseball-themed room.
Since its inception in 1999, God’s Pit Crew has distributed over 100 million pounds of food and supplies with an estimated wholesale value of nearly 300 million dollars. Every year, God’s Pit Crew serves an average of 180 local nonprofit agencies. They aided victims of Hurricane Sandy and helped victims of the Missouri flood.
“We go where ever God tells us to go,” Robey said.
For more information about the project, visit godspitcrew.org.