House that Greeks built allows family to establish new roots

Monday, September 10, 2007 | 5:36 p.m. CDT; updated 2:10 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008
Bethany Tunmire sets a nail into the doorframe of her soon-to-be room. The Tunmires had to complete 250 sweat-equity hours to receive their new home. Working on their house allowed them to interact with the hundreds of volunteers who helped build it.

COLUMBIA — When Melissa Tunmire opened the cardboard box, she gasped.

“I know that smell,” she said.


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It was the smell of rot and mold, a visceral reminder of Hurricane Rita. The Category 5 storm, which made land on Sept. 24, 2005, chased Tunmire and her 12-year-old daughter, Bethany, from their home near Galveston, Texas.

Now, almost two years later, they were moving from a small apartment in west Columbia into a new home, built by about 300 volunteers working with Habitat for Humanity.

As the two sorted through bags and boxes of their belongings, the memory of the evacuation of Galveston returned with the smell from a moldy box.

“It’s so invasive,” Tumire said. “I remember I tried to bleach everything before I packed it when we evacuated.”

Hurricane Rita didn’t destroy the trailer home Tunmire and her daughter lived in. But the winds pried the roof from the building’s frame, allowing water to pour in and run down the walls. After that, the floors never dried and rotted away, eventually collapsing altogether.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration gave Tunmire $2,800 for repairs, and her church offered support as well. Members would stop by her home to see how she was doing, but after awhile, their visits became sparse.

“We finally realized that they thought we had left,” Tunmire said. “We couldn’t hear them knocking because we were always in the back of the trailer with our mattresses up against the walls to keep the bugs out.”

Fleas and tree roaches had started to invade the trailer. One night, when Tunmire pulled the blanket off the sleeping palette, it was covered with grubs.

“What you’ve gotta understand is I’m a Texan. And we’re stubborn. I didn’t want to leave my home,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes. “But God was tryin’ so hard to get me to leave that place.”

Brandi, Tunmire’s oldest daughter, called from Columbia, asking Melissa and Bethany to move to Missouri. Tunmire packed as much as she could, mostly Bethany’s things, and they made their way to Missouri.

In June 2006, Melissa and Bethany moved into a small apartment. They joined the local Church of Latter Day Saints, and Melissa got a job as a patient care assistant through the Services for Independent Living. The apartment was better than her trailer, and the church had donated some furniture and mattresses, but Tunmire was still sleeping on the floor.

“I’m in pain all the time from sleeping on bad beds,” Tunmire said.

In early January, a counselor from the Lutheran Children and Family Services urged Tunmire to apply with a Habitat for Humanity program called House That Greeks Built, which was started by MU Greek Life. Members of different Greek organizations come together each year to raise $40,000 and build a family a home.

About 250 Greeks went to work at a lot off Oakland Gravel Road on March 1, launching what they referred to as a “Blitz Build.” Bill View, executive director of Show Me Central Habitat for Humanity, said the young workers were “amazing.”

“Young people working together to plan, raise funds and provide the labor for someone else certainly bolsters my confidence in our future leaders of this country,” he said.

Several of the Tunmires’ friends from church put in time on construction, and the Tunmire family was responsible for 250 hours of “sweat equity.”

On July 30, Tunmire headed to Boone Title and Loan to complete the paperwork. Later, parking her car beneath her new carport, Tunmire was beaming. After moving three times in less than two years, her twin mattress was still on the floor. But, finally, she was home.

“This time, it’s a good move,” she said “I can put my roots in.”

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jerry mitchell October 29, 2007 | 9:10 p.m.

Why does someone not have insurance to cover the damages to their trailer in Texas. Then the Feds step in and give her $2,800. She moves to Missouri and before 6 months she is living in a new 3 bedroom home? Then her church pays her first years insurance on the home? Says a lot about Show Me Central Habitat for Humanity! I thought all of us Habitat home owners were screened and went through the same evaluation process. We were checked to make sure that we could afford our homes. I had to put out $20,000 of my own money, all that I got for the loss of everything in my life to get a Habitat house. At first I got turned down by Habitat because my debt/income ratio was to high. Then as soon as Melissa gets into her home she quits her job? Shows she really knows how to work the system! I see now that there were 40,000 reasons why Habitat built a home for her. I was dead and no nobody has gave me a thing. I have lost everything in my life, everything! My job, health and will spend what life I have left in poverty. I have a family that depended on me. I cannot even afford the gas to drive the 90 miles to be with them. I no longer have a life I want to live and thought Habitat was going to make it better? In this neighborhood one of us can have a 6' fence but the rest of us cannot. There are not supposed to be any Pit-Bulls or part Pit-Bulls and some of us cannot get insurance but Melissa is special. Habitat has really treated us all fairly and the same and they say that this is a family oriented neighborhood? All of us have had to give up something to be in these homes. I guess Melissa is different? I am a Marine Corps Viet Nam Vet and I am a native Missourian. She has a Pit-Bull that has attacked her neighbor and his little dog on three occasions now. She is no better than the repeat drunk driver that crossed over into my lane of traffic and took me out head on while I was on my motorcycle. Does not have or own a thing or enough insurance to cover their victims. She is a Cristian and has either lied about or held the truth about having a part Pit-Bull from her insurance company. They say that can even be worse than a full Pit-Bull because of not knowing the blood lines. Other neighbors who had a part Pit-Bull were honest about it when they called to get insurance and could not find a company that would cover them so they had to get rid of their family pet! I guess Melissa is special and she does not care about her neighbors being hurt by this dog. Why, because she has nothing nobody can take away if they were injured.

(Report Comment)
Melissa Tunmire January 19, 2008 | 4:40 p.m.

I was just made aware of this comment Mr. Mitchell posted about me and Show Me Habitat for Humanity. It is full of lies and has done so much harm to my reputation. I want to know how a can get the truth stated and how i can get a retractiion of all these lies that he used your paper as a tool to hurt me. I want to know axactly who was able to see this article he wrote because of this and many numerous things he has done to harm my family i will be seeking council from a Lawyer. please help me and answer these questions so i can to rebuild my life and reputation with out any more fear of this man. thank you Melissa Tunmire

(Report Comment)
Melissa Tunmire January 24, 2008 | 5:38 p.m.


I am going to go over and correct each lie that Mr. Mitchell has told on me, unlike his story

anyone can check and validate the truths I write herein.
I did not own the trailer I lived in, in Texas it was rented. My landlord who had very high

medical cost for an ill child did not insure the property. She did try and apply for what was

called a low interest loan from F.E.M.A. to make repairs only to find out that it had 28%

interest and she could not afford it.
I only filed for the damages caused to my personal property and my car even though I could

have and was eligible for much more. I refused to move in a R.V. camp full of refugees from

Katrina and Rita because I had a 10 year old daughter and the news was reporting everyday on

pedophiles and criminals that were using these camps to hide in. So my daughter and i spent

another 9 months in a home that with each rain storm was more destroyed.
I arrived in Columbia June 13, 2006 with $45.00 my child a cat and my dog. I came here because

my church Bishop told me even though Beth and I were surviving we were not living. Bishop Hanks

said he had prayed and knew if I came here, where my oldest daughter is attending Mizzou, life

would become so much better for us. I took it on faith and his word put what I could in my car

and started my journey to a new life.
I found a home and found the ward of my local church and began anew within one month of moving

to Columbia. I myself am disabled and was just recovering from an illness that had left me bed

ridden the most part of three years.
I found work as soon as I could and in November I was invited to apply for a home through Show

Me Central Habitat for Humanity. I even had told Kathleen at Lutheran Family Children Services I

felt I should leave this for a family that lost more than I had, she said nonsense You come to

the meeting ! There where, I believe 5 other families that night who applied and I am not sure

if more did. I went through the same evaluation process EVERYONE goes through. I was turned down

the first time because of a pending divorce then on Dec.5,2006 I was able to apply again because

my divorce was final.
I was screened and passed my debt/income ratio because I try very hard not to own anything I

haven't payed for straight out. I am not perfect two storms and one divorce in less than fives

years combined with a major illness has left me with some small debts that I will take care of.

Nothing that made me not qualified for the program.
I don't know why out of all that applied I am the only one that passed. I do know Habitat was

trying so hard to help out another hurricane Family they asked me if I knew anyone who would

qualify and I was sad to say I didn't.

(Report Comment)
Melissa Tunmire January 24, 2008 | 5:41 p.m.


I have investigated on my own and found out some interesting things about Mr. Mitchell's

claims. First no one pays $20.000 of there own money to get a habitat home. That is the debt he

had to pay off (his own debt) before he qualified.
I moved in this home on July 31 and had to quit my job in September because my daughter was

admitted to the hospital. Five relocations and three evacuations since she was seven years old

has taken a tole, add to that as soon as she got home I left for work. SHE needed me ! Then the

company I worked for made a mistake on my payroll that put my bank in the negative and didn't

offer compensation so I would not work for them again.
I want to talk about the insurance that Mr. Mitchell says my church payed for me , another lie.

Members of my church of whom to this day I do not know who they are, payed my first years

insurance. They even went so for as to know I had just had a medical procedure on August 27,

2006 three days b4 my move and they came and moved every thing I have for me I did nothing but

drive home when it was all done.
The members of my church also planted the grass Mr. Mitchell walks on today and calls his own.

They put all the appliances in the house across the street and put sheet rock in the house on

the next street. I feel honored to be a part of their church. A very close friend of my old ward

even spent days with her husband and wired my entire house for electricity. I can never thank

them enough and words are surely not enough to show my love for each and every member of my

Now I will address this fence issue Mr.Mitchell has used to hurt so many people that have

helped him so much. When I first moved in I spent some time listening to him

damn Show Me Habitat for Humanity for not allowing him a fence he wants in around his small

yard. One member was grandfathered in before the subdivision comm. decided 4ft. vinyl fences

would keep the property in an manner as not to look trashy and ruin the look of our community.

Mr. Mitchell then told me he was going to sue Habitat and make them let him build his fence. He

also told me of some minor problems he had with his home and he was going to sue the builders.

Please remember all these people who build the homes are volunteers.
I found out that Habitat didn't even have funds to build Mr. Mitchell's home so they went

through all kinds of special effort and sold land that another more appreciative family could

have had a home on, and built his home with those funds.
It sickens me that Mr. Mitchell has the audacity to say one bad word against any of the people

who provided him a home, or try and sue them!

(Report Comment)
Melissa Tunmire January 24, 2008 | 5:49 p.m.

The drama continues my dog Max who swam through 6ft of water to escape with us during a tropical storm, survived the evacuation from hurricane Rita when hundreds of pets didn't. MY daughter
watched pets dieing along I-45 as she held close and prayed for our pets to make it through the heat and 13 hours it took to make a two hour drive. This dog Max ran up to Mr. Mitchell's new puppy got slapped away and then he and I left in my car. One hour later animal control calls and says Max has been accused of biting Mr. Mitchell. The next day they report he has a 1/4 inch scratch on is hand and take my daughters dog away too quarantine. Nine days I watch mydaughter suffer because she thought they would kill her dog over a malicious lie.
I could not understand why he was doing this until he began to try and sue my home owners insurance ! There are NO breed specific laws in this subdivision. my dog is a mutt who looks likescooby-doo weighs 40 pounds and his best friend is a cat. He has never harmed anything in the 7 years of his life. yes he has some pit in him if you look close you can see it, but his mom was a shaggy Benji looking dog. Max has a very sweet personality the reporters who did these stories can attest to that.

(Report Comment)
Melissa Tunmire January 24, 2008 | 5:56 p.m.


"She is a Cristian and has either lied about or held the truth about having a part Pit-Bull from her insurance company. They say that can even be worse than a full Pit-Bull because of not knowing the blood lines. Other neighbors who had a part Pit-Bull were honest about it when they called to get insurance and could not find a company that would cover them so they had to get
rid of their family pet! I guess Melissa is special and she does not care about her neighbors being hurt by this dog. Why, because she has nothing nobody can take away if they were injured."

All lies I did not omit to having a dog and I do have insurance he should know because he is trying to defraud them of money! Also for all you out there who need help with insurance on a
special dog call Kasmann Ins. at 573) 442-1105 ask for Shannon in most circumstances she CAN help you get insurance.
I want to know Mr. Mitchell's source that says mixed breeds are dangerous ! I want to know the names of anyone in this subdivision that gave up a family pet ! I want to tell all my neighbors that when i was five years old my uncles dog attacked me and I spent the next 8 years getting plastic surgery on my face by university of Texas medical Branch and if my dog was ever a threat to anyone I WOULD PUT HIM TO SLEEP faster than they could ask me too.
I have had a order of protection put on Mr. Mitchell because of his threats to kill my dog and the fear he put into me. I had to call the police 7 times many of which he was cussing me with the most vile language I have ever heard, as he threatened me and my dog as I walked Max around the block.
If you look at all the paper work involved you will see he repeatedly mentions having a fence put on his yard even says I should put one around his yard and pay for it. Why? My dog is a
house dog and why his yard?

(Report Comment)
Melissa Tunmire January 24, 2008 | 6:04 p.m.


I have been stressed so much by this man I lost so much hair that was once past my waist I had to cut to my neck. I had all kinds of test ran to find the cause in fear of being sick again. They have came back negative. All for the want of a fence MR. Mitchell has slandered and harmed many people. If anyone don't believe me you are welcome to come to my home and see the evidence your self!
I feel pity for Mr. Mitchell because he has let the bad things that happen to him harden his heart. He is his own worse enemy. He has a lovely home two nice vehicles and so many opportunities to make a new good life for himself. I have cared for many Quadriplegias and paraplegias, employers right here in Columbia that have returned to school gotten degrees. They get up and go to work everyday no matter how hard it is or how much pain they endure. They greet me each time with a smile on their face and are all heroes to me.
Mr. Mitchell contact Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation they will assist you to get a job and or training not live in poverty the rest of your life !
Mr. Mitchell you say I have nothing anyone can take from me and in some cases that may be true you have more money in the bank than me two nice vehicles and My daughter has to push start our car everyday because after two storms and 20 years it's not gonna last much longer. You have taken away our piece of mind and our feeling of being safe in our home! I will tell you this though I have family and friends who love me and a church that inspires me to live and learn by
loving and serving others. these things no one but myself can take from me ! I close this by saying Mr. Mitchell I forgive you, I pray you will find your path to happiness and if there is ever a way i can serve you I will. Because God has blessed me so many times with people who served me beyond my ability to repay them. I thank God for Show Me State Habitat for Humanity and each and every person who ever helped build a house for them. I pray someday I may even be able to call you friend. Life is not meant to be lived like this! Thanks Jamie for being the awesome young lady you are much love honey! Melissa Tunmire

(Report Comment)
Melinda Jones January 24, 2008 | 8:20 p.m.

The negative remarks posted by Mr. Mitchell regarding Melissa Tunmire and her family are not true. Please do not assist this man in his attack of Melissa and her daughter. I am very concerned and say - Enough is enough.

(Report Comment)

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