Thursday, a crew from South Estatoe Baptist Church in Burnsville, N.C., was pouring sand to prepare the foundation of what Allen hopes will be the first of many homes.
“Restoration is not just about structural damage, it's about restoring the soul and you can do that though simple compassion, through hope,” she said. “So that's what we're out here doing.”
Some are skeptical, including a private investigator who lives in the community and said she was hired by others there to check out Allen's background.
The investigator, who said she was with Leigh's Investigations but asked that her name not be revealed, urged people to be cautious.
“I hope she is doing right by these people,” the investigator said.
Community residents say help has come piecemeal.
Marshall said he was uninsured and FEMA gave him $30,000 to help replace his mobile home.
He said the Red Cross gave him $1,000 to help with two water wells that cost him $8,000.
The American Legion gave him $1,000 and the Disabled American Veterans gave him $500. He was also given new glasses by Veterans Affairs and a handful of gift cards ranging from $25 to $100 by various church groups.
“That sounds like I sandbagged a lot of money,” he said apologetically, but said his losses were probably between $75,000 and $90,000.
“It goes pretty quick,” he said.
Marshall said his daughter used FEMA money to buy a damaged brick home in the community that his family has been living in while making repairs.
‘They stepped up to the plate'
Jerry and Cecilia Breedlove, who will soon celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, lost two mobile homes in the tornado, including their residence.
Jerry, 71, said FEMA turned them down for grant assistance because they had insurance. They were offered a low interest loan, but at this stage in their lives, Cecilia said “we're not into payments.”
The couple quickly located a fully furnished home to rent.
“I'll have to say the Red Cross was Johnny-on-the-spot,” Jerry said. “They stepped up to the plate right away. … They paid our deposit and first month's rent.”
Kristina Miller, who lives in Steelman Estates with her 11-year-old son, said she was uninsured and FEMA initially gave her $8,800 to repair her tornado-damaged mobile home, but later added $1,700 more.
However, having lived through a tornado, Miller said she's not anxious to get back into a repaired mobile home.
Miller said Tonia Allen's group has placed her third on the list for a new frame house, so she hopes it works out.