Kris Sullivan lost almost everything when a series of severe storms in March ravaged Henryville and its 2,000 residents.
Sullivan and her family were helpless as their home was destroyed. They were among hundreds of families who lost their homes as a result of the southeastern Indiana tornado.
Cummins Inc. employees are working to help rebuild Henryville with Habitat for Humanity’s Raise the Roof Over Southern Indiana project. The venture aims to rebuild what the spring weather wiped away.
By December, about 500 Cummins employees will have helped build 10 homes, including one for the Sullivans. The vision fills her eyes with tears.
“She was just really overwhelmed with the support,” said Margo Rout, a human resources manager for Cummins, reflecting on a considerable amount of time she spent with Sullivan. “She just kept saying, ‘I can’t believe I’ll be in my house by Christmas.’”
That’s the goal, anyway.
After helping finish the exteriors of other Henryville houses, Cummins volunteers will move on to their company-sponsored household, belonging to the Sullivans. The new house’s walls are being built to withstand 140 mph winds to avoid a disaster from recurring.
“It’s just a way to say we value the communities that we live in,” said Jeff Caldwell, executive director of Cummins’ pickup and van business.
On Monday, Cummins volunteers began participating in the Raise the Roof “blitz week,” a kick-start to the program’s efforts. Twenty to 30 volunteers boarded a Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. bus and headed south to the small town, birthplace of KFC’S Col. Harlan Sanders. They have been working 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. shifts, focusing on three of the 10 houses.
“It was a lot of (building) walls,” said Ben Slaton, program coordinator of Cummins’ turbo technologies division. “We put up external walls. Internal walls. By the end of (today), it’s going to look like a real house.”
By late October, Cummins employees will start putting finishing touches on the Sullivans’ home. They’ll paint and install cabinets and doors before they leave Dec. 7.
Cummins employees have found the Henryville victims surprised by and grateful for the company’s volunteer work. Caldwell considers it just part of his job.
“More than once, they say, ‘Wow, your company is letting you take this time off,’” Caldwell said. “Yeah, this is something we do as a company. It’s