Mennonite Disaster Service builds homes for Pilger tornado victims

Posted By: Lauren Fabrizi

All that was left of Jim Duncan’s home on the corner of Highway 15 and Old Road 8 in Pilger was one small piece of siding after twin tornadoes barreled their way through the tiny town.

“A shock to be in the house, then it’s gone,” Duncan remembered.

It’s been nearly nine months since those twisters claimed the lives of two people and destructed almost every home. Since then, a number of them have been repaired or are being fixed up now.

But for the dozens that were leveled, many families have moved elsewhere to start over.

Jim and his family aren’t one of them.

“Was my home since 1945 when my dad bought it,” Duncan said.

Thanks to some hammering hands and a little bit of saw dust, Duncan will have a new home on the same piece of land he spent the last 70 years of his life.

“We just got a lot of people who come out and help,” Wayne Stucky of the Mennonite Disaster Service said. “We want to help those who have gone through a disaster like this.”

The Mennonite Disaster Service helps out natural disaster victims across the country, typically those who have little or no insurance. Volunteers from Kansas and even Canada have taken on three homes in Pilger to date. Duncan’s home will be the fourth and final. All homes are free of labor costs.

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling when you can have a home dedication, just turn over the keys to them,” Stucky said.

A few other families have rebuilt on their own. Others are in the process. 

Duncan said it’s going to take time, but he knows the ‘little town too tough to die’ will eventually feel like home again.

“We’re coming back,” he said. “We won’t be the old Pilger, we’ll be a new town.”

Mennonite volunteers will start working on Duncan’s home next week. All four homes should be done by the summer.