banner image
One year after losing everything, families have rebuilt their lives (part 2) -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

One year after losing everything, families have rebuilt their lives (part 2)

About 250 volunteers spent a week in October building the exteriors of 10 homes, including Michelle Friedly’s (on the left). ©Habitat for Humanity
International/Kristin Wright

‘It’s not Christmas without a tree’


Nine months after a tornado destroyed their apartment and all their belongings, Michelle Friedly and her daughter, Jessica, moved into their new, three-bedroom Habitat home. ©Habitat for Humanity of Indiana/Gina Leckron


During the blitz build, about 250 volunteers put up the exteriors of the homes. Then the Moriartys and other volunteers raced to finish the interiors.
They made it in the nick of time. On Dec. 15 — just nine months after the storm — 10 families moved into their new homes.

Michelle immediately went to work setting up a borrowed Christmas tree.

“Everybody was like, ‘Are you seriously going to put up a tree? There’s only 10 days left.’ And I said, ‘It’s not Christmas without a tree.’ ”

Dustin and Emily celebrated by hosting his family on Christmas Eve and her family on Christmas night.

“Our living room was jam-packed with presents halfway across the floor,” she said. “I wanted my family to see the house. … They were really proud of us. They were really proud. This showed them that we were heading in the right direction — that we were growing up.”

Emily, who is 21, plans to return to school to study nursing and hopes to work in a neonatal intensive care unit. Now that the Halls are paying $445 a month for a mortgage instead of $700 a month for rent, they’ll be able to save up money for school.

Meanwhile, she and Dustin are busy making the house their home. They chose a dolphin theme for the bathroom and a firefighter theme for the guest bedroom. They’ll turn the other bedroom into a nursery for Allie’s future brothers and sisters.

A house becomes a home

Michelle is decorating, too.

Jessica, who’s now 18 and working with her mom at McDonald’s, chose zebra stripes for her room. Michelle also has an older daughter whose 4-year-old girl, Shelby, spends every other weekend with Grandma. Shelby wanted a pink and purple room with a Justin Bieber poster, and that’s what she got.

Michelle loves her new house. It’s spacious. It has an open kitchen that allows her to talk to her family while she’s cooking meals. And it has a yard.

“I’ve got my own dirt to play in now,” she said with a laugh.

She intends to plant a little garden, where she’ll grow pumpkins the girls can carve at Halloween.

Thinking back to that terrifying day in March, she said she couldn’t have imagined that a year later she’d have found such stability.

“Nothing so bad could end up so good, you wouldn’t think,” she said. “But it did. When it all happened, never in a million years did I think I’d be sitting in my own house right now.”

Series homepage: Why We Build
| 1 | 2 |