Laboring to rebuild Vilonia

VILONIA, Ark. (KTHV) - While many people are enjoying Labor Day not working, others did not take the day off. They spent the day rebuilding Vilonia.

Parkwood Meadows was one of the hardest hit neighborhoods in Vilonia. Now four months later, all the piles of debris have been removed from that neighborhood.

"Having to replace the roof and all the siding," said Jimmy Gillham.

Each nail pieces Jimmy Gillham's house back together.

"We sure had a mess," said Gillham.

Gillham says it is slowly coming along.

"Back when I was working, we took the holiday off, but these guys are not," said Gillham.

"Feels pretty good to me," said Coughlin. "I really do not mind working on the holidays."

Especially when Coughlin works towards rebuilding a community.

"Couple years," said Coughlin. "Some time. And a lot of hard work."

"We expect it is going to be a year or two," said Rebuild Vilonia Chairman Marty Knight.

Knight says the Joplin Area Citizens Advisory Recovery Team continues to give them advice.

"We knew very early on we needed to learn from people who have been down this road before," said Knight.

Knight says the first piece of advice is to speak with one voice.

"Before we go ask for any type of grant or appropriation of any kind they are going to want to know that there is a unified voice that the community is behind the plan," said Knight.

After the tornado in Joplin, the city lost about seven percent of its population. Knight expects a similar decrease.

"We expect the population growth will be there, that either new people will move in or people will move back," said Knight.

Gillham says even though it will be a slow go, the foundation exists to build back.

"We are still here, that is what really counts," said Gillham.

One idea the committee continues to throw around is building a community center that can act as a safe room. They want to build it in downtown Vilonia and want it to be able to fit between 1,000-1,500 people.

The next Rebuild Vilonia committee meeting is happening Tuesday September 2 at 7 p.m. in the Vilonia High School cafeteria.


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