MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — You can hear the progress in Marshalltown through chainsaws and hammering of rooftops but the road to tornado recovery is long. “It is all over town and a lot of work still needs to be done,” said Norman McDonald who works as a local contractor.
In September, homeowners with damage could apply for federal funding through the Voluntary Agencies Leading and Organizing Repairs, or project VALOR program. “If drywall or installation gets wet, they will repair that. If windows or doors are broken they replace those,” said Jessica Bullock of AmeriCorps VISTA and volunteer coordinator with Central Iowa RSVP. The group is charge of organizing the efforts to help those homes become livable. She said, “The funding for VALOR, they give $5,000, which is the cap per home.”
One hundred homes qualified for the program but zero are complete. That is partly because they’ve found the “V” in VALOR lacking. “We need volunteers for the program. There is no contracting involved. It is strictly done voluntarily,” said Bullock.
Bullock says experience is not necessary. Habitat for Humanity takes care of that. “We don’t need anybody to have carpentry skills. They just need to be willing to learn and come in to do the work,” Bullock said. She also says, no worries if volunteers are worried about a long commute . “We have two local churches in town who have let us know they are willing to accommodate groups or individuals that want to come in and stay.”
Making matters worse, a deadline to finish the homes is coming fast. Bullock said, “It is a six month program from the date of declaration so it expires March 11th. That work has to be completed by March 11th.” The work does not carry over past the deadline.
Norman McDonald has worked on homes that are receiving valor help. “It’s very important. Things that a homeowner does not have the money to pay for sometimes,” he said.
The tornado damage continues to keep many homes unlivable half a year later. For those familiar with VALOR, they feel it is proving home is where the heart is and for many of these residents, that is in Marshalltown. “They are pretty devoted,” said McDonald. He added, “It doesn’t matter what it is, you cannot keep Marshalltown down. They’re just coming right back.”
You can sign up to volunteer by emailing email@example.com or calling 515-444-2390.