With help, a new home rises for the Hoke family

Story by Cindy Higginbottom / Photos by Cindy Higginbottom, Carla LaFayette and courtesy of Michelle Hoke

For about 30 minutes on May 19, 2013, the Hoke family—parents James and Michelle and children Cassie and J.W.—escaped underground to a storm shelter. Above them, a tornado destroyed their home in Shawnee, Oklahoma.

Six months after a tornado destroyed their home, the Hoke family moved into their new home in Shawnee, Oklahoma.

Six months after a tornado destroyed their home, the Hoke family (including J.W., standing in front) moved into their new home in Shawnee, Oklahoma.

They lost everything.

But with the help of building materials from World Vision, partners, and corporate donors, the Hokes have rebuilt their house. James and Michelle learned new skills as they worked alongside World Vision partners, skilled volunteers, and neighbors. God's Hand Up, World Vision's partner in Shawnee, completed the home just before Christmas.

"It is totally done!" Michelle says. As soon as they could—a month before finishing touches were done—the family moved in.

"If we did not receive the donations, we would not have a home," Michelle says. "We don't feel we deserve this. No one expected this [outpouring of donations] to happen."

The Hoke family (son J.W. in front, and Michelle, daughter Cassie, and James in back) say the donation of building materials "gave us back hope."

The Hoke family (son J.W. in front, and Michelle, daughter Cassie, and James in back) say the donation of building materials "gave us back hope."

Keeping Their Children Together

Before they moved to their rebuilt home, the Hokes lived 15 minutes away in a rental that was not ideal for their family. To keep a sense of normalcy for Cassie, 14, and J.W., 7, James and Michelle committed to having their children attend the same school.

"The school system has been tremendously helpful to the Hoke family," says Michelle. While living in the rental for six months, Michelle drove the children to the bus stop near their property.

It's a familiar scenario to Phyllis Freeman, national disaster response director for World Vision's U.S. Programs.

"World Vision sees this situation around the country," Phyllis says.

"When families are displaced after a disaster, many choose to sacrifice time and finances to make sure that their children are able to attend the same school. Schools are part of their routine and safety net."

Debris piled up after a tornado tore through Shawnee, Oklahoma, flattening the Hoke's neighborhood.

Debris piled up after a tornado tore through Shawnee, Oklahoma, flattening the Hoke's neighborhood.

Getting Back to Normal

Michelle says that being back home and fully recovering mentally has been a process for the entire family. They have had bad dreams, she says, and J.W. has had to work through some issues to feel safe.

Piles of concrete debris, the last reminders of their former house, were recently removed.

"Things are starting to feel a lot more normal again," says Michelle.

When asked what is the best thing about returning, Michelle says, "Being able to be back together as a family on our own property and in our new home! This experience has made me and my husband closer than ever before."

Her outlook on life has also changed.

Michelle Hoke lifts the entrance to the 8-foot-square storm shelter where her family rode out the tornado.

Michelle Hoke lifts the entrance to the 8-foot-square storm shelter where her family rode out the tornado.

"As long as you have your family and believe, you can make it through anything," Michelle says.

The family is living more frugally because "everything you think you need is really more of a want," she says, and "everything can be taken away in a matter of moments."

Giving Back

To help keep their minds off of the devastation they went through, the Hoke family now works to help others who lost their homes in the tornado.

"It is our turn to give back to someone else," Michelle says. "No one had to do this for us, and it is only right that we too give back."

 

 

 

 

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