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‘They know this is their house’

By Teresa K. Weaver


Thomas and Samantha Short (pictured with children Morgan, Gavin and Chloe) are thrilled to be able to spend time outside after spending months cooped up in a FEMA trailer.
©Habitat for Humanity/ Ezra Millstein


Baby Morgan no longer suffers from allergies caused by the mold that sprung up in the Shorts’ apartment after a tornado damaged the roof.
©Habitat for Humanity/ Ezra Millstein


Thomas and Samantha Short counted themselves among the lucky ones after a monster tornado hit their hometown. They survived, and the damage to their apartment didn’t appear to be too extensive.

They put a tarp on the damaged roof and moved back in.

“There it was”
But about a month later, their daughter Morgan — only 2 months old at the time — woke up screaming, with her eyes swollen shut. They rushed her to the hospital, where doctors suspected allergies and prescribed ointment.

A week later, the baby’s eyes were still swollen, and the couple’s other children had started suffering from breathing problems and irritated eyes. Frustrated and anxious, Samantha started moving furniture in order to give the children’s bedroom a floor-to-ceiling scrubbing.

“I moved the bookshelf, and there it was,” she said. “Thick, nasty green and black mold growing out of the air conditioning vent.”

Close quarters
The landlord showed little interest in fixing the roof or eliminating the potentially deadly mold, so the Shorts moved into a cramped FEMA trailer near the airport.

“The kids were all cooped up, because there were some not-so-nice people who lived around us,” Samantha said. “They couldn’t play outside. Thomas and I started to argue, and the kids started acting out. Our son would throw kicking, screaming fits, which he never did before. It was a horrible living situation.

“And then we found a flier about Habitat on our door.”

A healthy home to grow
Now, the growing family — Samantha is expecting their fifth child in May — is living in a four-bedroom house built in partnership with Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity. The kids have a yard to play in, and Thomas even has room to grow strawberries, carrots and peas in a small garden out back.

The kids — Gavin, 5; Chloe, 3; Makenna, 2; and Morgan, 1 — are healthy.

“They’re too young to understand the concept of owning something,” Samantha said. “But they know this is their house.”

Return to the series home page:
‘You can see hope here’: One year after the 2011 tornadoes


‘This will be a safe place’

Amber and Ethan Millard huddled in a closet with their two small sons and the family dog as the tornado reduced their apartment complex to rubble.

Tornadoes and flooding in the central U.S.
Our local Habitat affiliates are leading the cleanup and rebuilding efforts. Learn more about this disaster recovery and how you can help.