Catholic Charities is honored to be a part of the rebuilding of the homes for the former residents of Pinhook. Their homes were destroyed in 2011 when a levee on the Mississippi River was blown to control flooding elsewhere. Although they had flood insurance, it did not cover because it was a man-made event rather than a natural disaster.
SIKESTON, Mo. — Nearly seven years after floodwaters ripped apart the small, black community of Pinhook, Missouri, its former residents are finding a new sense of community.
After years of frustration, the former residents have their sights set on moving into new homes, most of them on Apache Street in Sikeston.
Seven houses are being built along the Sikeston street in the Indian Hills subdivision, while two more of the single-story houses will be built elsewhere at the request of former residents. One will be built in Charleston, Missouri, and the other just north of Sikeston, said Kyle Schott, regional director of Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri, which is coordinating the project.
Schott said each single-family home will be 1,250 square feet.
Eight former residents of the village of Pinhook, along with family and friends, were on hand for a groundbreaking ceremony Friday on Apache Street. Representatives of volunteer groups, state agencies and elected officials also attended the celebration as volunteers, including an Amish group from Ohio whose members continued to work on the houses, which are being built on concrete slabs. The groundbreaking ceremony took place on one of the finished concrete slabs.
Debra Robinson Tarver, former chairwoman of Pinhook, looked across the street at the site of her new home where a concrete foundation is taking shape.
An emotional Tarver said, “I am not going to cry.”
Tarver thanked the efforts of those in attendance.
“I love you from the bottom of my heart,” she said.
Various volunteer groups and state agencies have partnered in the development to provide housing for about 10 former residents.
The Missouri Department of Economic Development awarded a $450,000 block grant to the village to buy the land and help with construction costs.
But the actual construction is being done by Mennonite Disaster Services volunteers and the Amish group.
Amish volunteers work a week and then are replaced by new volunteers, Schott said in advance of the groundbreaking.
“Right now, we have about 10 down here,” he said of the volunteers.
The Mennonite group provided the construction equipment, Schott said.
The volunteers are staying at a Baptist camp in Charleston. Schott said the Amish have to be transported to the construction site because they don’t drive.
Schott said the Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch.
“They speak a language I don’t understand,” he said earlier this week.
But it doesn’t take a translator to witness their charitable actions, according to Schott.
Foundation work began several days ago.
“They hope at the end of three to four weeks to have all the homes framed out,” he said.
The goal is to complete the houses within the next several months so the former Pinhook residents can be moved in by Memorial Day weekend when those residents typically gather to remember their one-time village in Mississippi County, Schott said.
Tarver expressed appreciation for the new houses taking shape. But she said after the ceremony the long-running effort to find a place to call home isn’t over until the last nail has been hammered and the former residents move in.
Aretha Robinson, Tarver’s mother, lived in Pinhook until floodwaters destroyed the village in 2011.
“After the flood, everything just started going down,” she recalled.
Looking over the houses taking shape in Sikeston, Robinson said she feels the Pinhook community has been resurrected.
“I am just happy to see it,” she said.
Former Pinhook resident Lester Dunigan, who lives in East Prairie, Missouri, said he is looking forward to moving to the Sikeston neighborhood where he can live close to others from the washed-out village.
Residents of the village had federal flood insurance, but received no insurance payments because the 2011 flood was not a natural occurrence. It happened because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blasted three holes in the Mississippi River levee on the Missouri side to relieve pressure on the floodwall protecting Cairo, Illinois, and other populated areas upstream.
The action flooded about 130,000 acres of farmland in Mississippi and New Madrid counties and the village of Pinhook.
The former residents of the village struggled to get their footing. Some said they felt ignored at times by various government agencies and elected officials.
Dunigan said he and others refused to give up.
“Now everything is coming together,” he said.
Apache Street, Sikeston, Mo.