September 13, 2013

Donation provides barns, community center in area struck by tornadoes

Fred Burns stands inside one of the two small barns built for him through money donated by Mercury One and distributed by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Fred Burns stands inside one of the two small barns built for him through money donated by Mercury One and distributed by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

HENRYVILLE AND PEKIN—In the near-90 degree heat and humidity of southern Indiana, Fred Burns stood on a gravel path looking down at his herd of Angus cattle grazing on a hillside pasture on his farm near Pekin.

He pointed to a nearby hill.

“See that house over there? You couldn’t see that house before the tornado.

“And that area over there,” he said, pointing to a grassy knoll, “that was all big, mature trees. Who knows how long they were here. But they’re all gone.

“I had nine outbuildings, and the tornado took all of them. With most of the trees gone and no barns left, there was just hardly any place for [the cattle] to get shade and get away from the flies, and no place to keep the hay.”

Enter Mercury One, a philanthropic organization founded by radio and television personality Glenn Beck. Part of the organization’s mission focuses on disaster relief.

In May, a representative from Mercury One reached out to David Siler, executive director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

“They contacted me to ask if we were still active in providing disaster recovery in southern Indiana [where two devastating tornadoes struck the area on March 2, 2012]. They wanted to know if there were any particular projects that still needed attention.

“I contacted Jane Crady, our disaster coordinator, and she said that there were about 20 farmers who lost barns in the tornadoes that were not insured [or were underinsured] and fell low on the priority list, so were likely not going to receive any help to rebuild their barns,” said Siler.

Mercury One donated $199,500 toward the rebuilding of barns for 21 farmers. Amish builders were contracted, supplying the material and labor at $9,500 per farm.

When asked what his reaction was upon hearing he was one of the recipients of the grant money, Burns choked back tears before struggling to say, “Pretty good.

“After more than a year, we thought we’d heard the last of [the organizations]. It sure made [my wife’s and my] day.”

Rather than one large barn, Burns had two 30-by-40 foot structures built for his cattle—one for the pasture on each side of the road that splits his property.

The father of one and grandfather of four proudly displayed his new barns and the improvements he’s added to them.

“They’ve been up about a month. [The cattle] are still kind of leery of them. But they’ll get used to them.”

Just outside Henryville, the Angus cattle on John and Libby Ryan’s farm have not had the opportunity to try out their new barn.

“[The contractors] are waiting on a few supplies. They’ve got just about four hours of work left on it,” said John of their new 40-by-60 foot barn for cattle and hay.

Like Burns, the Ryans lost an untold number of trees that the cattle used for shade and protection. And they, too, lost all of their outbuildings.

“It was crucial to have a barn,” said Libby. “You just can’t work with animals without the proper shelter.”

John spoke of the challenges faced last year with no barn for the cattle.

“It was kind of hard to load cattle. I ended up putting up a bunch of gates. In order to get the trailer low enough to load them out of the gates, I had to dig a hole in the ground and back the trailer down into it. It was challenging.

“I was getting ready to do pretty much what I did last year to load them when we heard about the grant.”

Libby took the call from Crady about the gift.

“Oh my goodness, I just couldn’t hardly believe it,” she said. “We were so excited, and we are so grateful. It’s hard to find the words to say how grateful we are.”

But the Mercury One gift did not stop with the barns.

In Marysville, the tornado tore the roof off the town’s community center, causing a total loss to the interior.

Father Steven Schaftlein, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Henryville and St. Michael Parish in Charlestown, received a check for $100,000 from Mercury One on behalf of St. Francis Xavier Parish to use toward rebuilding the community center.

“The Marysville Community Center is the social center of the rural community for family celebrations—birthdays, anniversaries, reunions,” said Father Schaftlein, “It also served as the meeting place for civic events.

“Insurance and county funds were sufficient with the help of volunteer labor to put on a new roof, replace windows, and repair the outside of the building, but the inside had to be totally gutted. This grant will enable us to restore the building to use.”

The project is slated for completion by October or November.

“This is evangelization in action,” said Father Schaftlein, “working with others out there, out of good will.”

Burns is proof.

“My wife and I go to the United Methodist [church] here in Pekin. But as good as the Catholics have been to me, I’m about ready to change! They’ve been really good to us.”

John Ryan admits the timing could not have been better.

“It just seemed like—and it’s the same thing with this barn—every time you turn around and there’s something you need, somebody shows up to help. It’s uncanny the way it’s happened.”

Libby turned to her husband and said,

“I think those are called blessings.” †

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