Hopkins Co. tornado survivors starting to move into new homes

Hopkins Co. tornado survivors starting to move into new homes
Published: Dec. 2, 2022 at 6:18 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 2, 2022 at 6:37 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HOPKINS CO., Ky. (WFIE) - Only days away from the one-year anniversary of the deadly Dec. 10 tornadoes that devastated parts of western Kentucky, volunteers have been working to rebuild ever since, and some areas are starting to look a little more like normal.

Leslie Hunt moved into her new house the day before Thanksgiving, and then hosted her family and friends for the holiday. She says they were impressed with her new place.

“Oh, they was shocked, and just telling me how blessed I was,” said Hunt.

Hunt’s previous house was destroyed in the tornadoes. Her new home was built through volunteer effort and donated money. Hunt says she couldn’t sleep on her first night there because she was too excited.

“When I walked in I cried, because I wasn’t expecting it to look like this,” said Hunt.

Rather than an empty shell of a house, Hunt came home to new appliances and furniture as well.

Hunt’s home, as well as many others, is the culmination of a lot of work between multiple churches, charitable organizations and more. In some areas, all of that coordinating is done by one volunteer, who’s quickly becoming a local legend: “Barnsley Billy” Wells, named for the Hopkins County town where he’s done much of his work.

Wells has lived most of his life in the area and jumped into action immediately after the storms. He has years of experience as a builder, and is putting that experience to use coordinating the construction of about 15 homes.

He’s overseen the work of volunteers from across the country, including Amish volunteers from states away. He says at times he’s overwhelmed by how giving people can be.

“It’s kind of emotional to know that you’ll do all that, but it’s all coming together like it should,” said Wells.

He didn’t give an exact number, but he says multiple organizations, including a prominent YouTuber, have trusted him with hundreds of thousands of dollars to help people.

Some have even tried to recruit him to help in other parts of the world, but he isn’t going anywhere.

“Still got a lot to do here,” said Wells.

He says the process has been slow at times due to a lack of volunteers, specialty contractors, and more, but for people like Hunt, it’s all worked out in the end.

“I didn’t think I’d ever get here, but I did,” said Hunt. “It feels wonderful being home.”

Billy, as well as other coordinators, say they still need volunteers to help with rebuilding.

Click here for more information on how to get involved.