Home ISU students built over break burns down

Tracy Deutmeyer

Nine Iowa State students’ smiles were turned upside down when they learned a house they helped build in Appalachia over spring break burned to the ground Monday morning.

The students, along with one high school student and other members of the Ames community, spent spring break building an addition to a trailer home near Williamsburg, Ky., said Dr. Clarence Johanns, chairman for the Appalachia Committee Inc.

“We’re just disappointed that all the effort was lost. But the concern now is that we can help her [the resident] find a new home,” Johanns said.

Dan Bahr, a member of the committee’s board of directors, said the trailer burned down at about 2 a.m. on March 17.

The students traveled to Kentucky on March 8 to help build a $3,000 addition for Juanita Rose. Rose has a 19-year-old daughter, Michelle, who was born blind and has cerebral palsy.

Rose had to carry Michelle into her trailer home because there was not a door wide enough for the wheelchair, Bahr said.

The addition the students built had a door wide enough to accommodate Rose’s daughter’s wheelchair.

Bahr said the fire started from an electrical outlet in the back bedroom, on the opposite end of the addition.

“There was smoke and fire damage in the new addition, but it is still standing,” Bahr said.

Sister Leanne Herda of Williamsburg, Ky., coordinates the trip for ISU students twice a year. She said Rose has some insurance, but not enough to cover the total cost of the fire.

Johanns and his wife, Lois, have been traveling to the Appalachia area with students for more than 25 years. He said before the trip this year, students were each asked to raise $50 for materials. Other people in the Ames community also donated money for the addition.

“We raised as much as we could,” Johanns said.

Tom O’Donnell, a reporter for The Des Moines Register, also traveled with the students on the 14-hour trip and did a six-part series on the project in last week’s Register.

“It was the first time I had done something like this as a student or as a journalist,” O’Donnell said.

Donations for Juanita Rose can be mailed to the Appalachia Committee, P.O. Box 1255, Welch Ave., Ames, Iowa, 50014.