Cypress missions and HEART/911 working to restore, rebuild and revive after deadly tornado
By Teresa LeNeave
There are many reasons why people sacrifice the comforts of their own lives to make someone else's life better after disaster strikes. One reason is a deep-seated love for people and knowing you have skills and talents that can be used for rebuilding homes and lives. Another is a heart of compassion and commitment to a call on your life. Freddie Fiorentino and his team are just that. They are caring and giving people. He said, "It rips your heart out to see some of the things we see and the way people suffer after natural disasters take away all they have. That's why we do what we do".
In 1994, Fiorentino gave his life to Christ and immediately began a life of service to God and people around him. In 2017, he formed Cypress missions and has traveled throughout the United States, and around the world, to offer humanitarian help to individuals and churches who have suffered devastating disaster from tornados and hurricanes. He said, "We go into an area and access the needs. We try to help individuals, families or churches who can't afford it and really need the help." Sometimes they gut a home and redo it. Sometimes they do simple repairs. And, sometimes they build from the ground up. It all depends on the need and the circumstances.
Fiorentino said, "We like to focus on people with children and on people who serve their communities, but that's not always what we can do. When we select a place, or family to help, we "try to pick it right and be led by the Lord".
After the December 2021 deadly tornado that wreaked havoc across western Kentucky, Cypress missions and HEART/911 teamed up for a joint project in Cayce, KY. "We chose to go to Cayce because they weren't getting the help Mayfield was and we felt we was needed more in Cayce."
Cypress missions selected Don Wright's home for a rebuild in Cayce. Fiorentino explained, "He had lived in that same home for 68 years. It was severely damaged by the tornado." Fiorentino said there was an overwhelming amount of work to be done to restore Wright's home, but he and his team, along with professional carpenters with HEART/911, knew they had the skills for the job. They arrived in Cayce on June 14 and worked tirelessly in daily dangerously high temperatures ranging near 100 degrees until the job was completed. By June 22, they finished the job and returned to their homes and jobs.
Cypress missions is based in New Jersey, but his team of volunteers are from many different states. He said, "This is our third trip to Cayce and we are coming back again in August. Our policy is to continue to come back as we are needed. Consistency is the thing we strive for." All Cypress missions and HEART/911 volunteers have full time jobs. Every month they sacrifice their time, money and skills to do mission work of some kind. Four to five times a year they travel to different states (or countries) to help rebuild after natural disasters. He said the projects are paid for through donations and at least 94% of all donations go straight into the rebuilds. About 50% of their missions are in America and 50% throughout the world. It actually depends on where the natural disasters occur.
They have requirements for all projects. First, of course, is the severity of the need. Families with children get priority. They help a lot of churches with needs that range from fixing ceilings, putting in new windows, building kitchens and bathrooms, framing, and repairing roofs to complete rebuilds. They provide the labor, but ask the recipient to provide the materials along with two to three volunteers to help out.
The name Cypress missions was selected because of its significance to life: Cypress roots run deep. It's strong. It has a good foundation and provides a great deal of shade. He said, "I see Cypress missions like that. We have a good foundation and our roots run deep. I started this after a Damascus experience so it means a lot to me. Our goal is to mobilize mission trips for rebuilding and humanitarian needs."
Every disaster takes time to heal and rebuild, but Fiorentino's team of volunteers are outstanding. Currently, working on the Cayce projects are Melanie Atwill and the Cayce Recovery team; Freddie Fiorentino and his team of 11 men and women: Doug Buechler, Don Blair, Carol Blair, Bill Blair, Sharon Blair, Kathy Edwards (our very own from Carlisle County), Lorraine Yoncak, Carla Allen (from McCracken County), Pastor Billy Prince and Tim Gordon of Faith Baptist Church (Ballard County) and Eiline Camion. And, four HEART/911 volunteers: Robert MaCarthy, Edward Shaffer, Thomas Oswald and Jonathan Avildsen.
He said, "We teamed up with Bill Kegan (a 911 survivor) and his team of professional carpenters (HEART/911) because we could do more and help more people. I don't care who gets the credit as long as the job gets done. What we try to do is complete a job for people in need. It's amazing what we've seen and what we've been able to do for people who were suffering greatly. We are making relationships and building bridges. The world is my classroom and the study never ends."
Editors note: Anyone interested in learning more about Cypress missions go to www.cypressmissions.com. Or, follow on Facebook/CypressMissions or Instagram@cypressmissions