Convoy of Hope disaster preparation includes demolishing home

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OZARK, Mo. The Convoy of Hope turned into the Convoy of Destruction on Tuesday as 15 staff members and volunteers got to take turns operating a mini-excavator and skid steer loaders to help demolish a house at the Ozark Mill Finley Farms development.

The Johnny Morris family, longtime partners with the Convoy of Hope, invited the organization to tear down the structure in order to get training for a service that's much needed after any natural disaster....debris clean-up.

"A lot of times when we think of Convoy and we're initially responding to a disaster we're bringing truckloads of food, water, hygiene kits and things like that," explained Stacy Lamb, the US Disaster Services Senior Director. "But these are the kind of things that happen after that. They (survivors) may be in shock and they don't even know where to start. So our team will come in with heavy equipment, staff, volunteers and we'll help the homeowner clean up."

Convoy of Hope is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, but this clean-up part of the operation has only been going on for a couple of years.

Although some staff and volunteers have received OSHA-certified safety training, this chance to train on heavy machinery is valuable experience.

"The opportunity to tear down a structure like this and get all the training that we're doing today doesn't present itself very often," Lamb said.

"This is really important to be able to know what you're doing when you get on sight and know how to operate when your taking trees off of someone's home," added Convoy of Hope volunteer Doug Friedrichsen.

Certainly a lot of these drivers were probably fulfilling a childhood dream as they tore stuff up without getting in trouble for it.

"It is adrenaline," admitted Friedrichsen, a retired accountant who hadn't been on heavy machinery in over three decades from his days on a farm. "But you don't know whether it's from fear or from excitement."

But there is a art to this demolition work that must be learned as well.

"The idea is to push in the walls where it's the weakest part of the structure and let the structure collapse on itself," Lamb explained. "So it's not coming back on you."

By the end of the day, the demolition was complete. But the home's usefulness is not over.

"The things we're taking out of that structure have been re-purposed and sent to Habitat for Humanity," said Katie Mitchell, Bass Pro Shops Communications Manager. "So the house is going to enjoy a second-life almost. It goes for training and it also goes for Habitat for Humanity to help build new homes."

Last year alone Convoy's Disaster Services team responded to 39 disasters and helped more than a million survivors.