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After derecho destroyed their home, family moves into new home thanks to stranger-turned-friend

Published: Dec. 9, 2020 at 10:57 PM CST
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SHELLSBURG, Iowa (KCRG) - At Timber Ridge Mobile Home Park in Shellsburg, where the tears etched into homes by the August derecho are far from gone, the tears inside Lisa Jordan’s new home were just starting Wednesday.

“I was speechless,” Jordan said of the moment she walked through the front door, her jaw dropped and covered by her hands.

After the derecho, Jordan and her family were living in a camper outside their Timber Ridge mobile home, which had been destroyed in the storm.

Kendra Aarhus of Palo met them while she was volunteering with storm cleanup a month after the derecho and learned that while Jordan had received some money from FEMA, it wasn’t enough to get their lives back together.

So Aarhus decided to step in.

She acquired an old, beat-up trailer from Timber Ridge management and spent the next three months restoring, repairing, and transforming it into a new home for Jordan and her sons, 9-year-old Dekota and 7-year-old Dalton.

Aarhus recruited volunteers to work alongside her, clocking more than 2,000 hours of labor in total, and she estimates she raised around $20,000 in donations from friends, family, local businesses, and strangers to fund the restoration.

Jordan received the keys Wednesday, along with a refrigerator full of food, a set of pajamas on each bed, and stockings stuffed next to a decorated Christmas tree.

“I am that much more thankful that I will have Kendra’s friendship forever. And I don’t want her to stop coming around either!” Jordan said.

Nearly 90 days after they first met each other, Aarhus decorated the new, fully furnished home with a quilt her family had made for Jordan’s.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in there, and I practically lived there for a long time for the last three months. But I just know it feels like home, and that’s really my favorite part,” Aarhus said.

Aarhus said watching Dalton and Dekota see their room, complete with bunk beds and a new HotWheels track, for the first time made the project worth it.

Jordan agreed.

“I wanted to do everything I possibly could to be a good mom and put a smile on their face because they deserve it,” she said. “They deserve the best.”

Now they all will get to spend Christmas at home — their own home.

Presents are already waiting under the tree.

“It’s going to be incredible,” Jordan said. “It’s definitely a dream come true after what has happened.”

After showing her boys around their new home for the first time, Jordan knelt on the floor and held their hands.

“After everything we’ve been through, this is home sweet home,” she told her sons, tearing up, before wrapping them in a hug.

“God, I love you boys so much.”

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