A Blessing After the Storm

On Memorial Day 2019, a devastating tornado struck Dayton, Ohio. The storm destroyed Lavonne Meyer’s home and possessions. In her own words, Lavonne talks about losing nearly everything—and how, with KeyBank’s help, she and her family got it all back.

“It’s bad.”

That’s what my daughter said when she came back in the house after going outside before the tornado struck our home. All of us were together—my four children and me. My phone’s alert started ringing, and we all got in the bathroom.

Then the tornado hit my home.

Darkness, Wind and Prayer

I keep my peace of mind because I’m a woman of faith, and I stay focused. It’s how I was raised, and that’s the type of person I am. I’m good about setting a goal and accomplishing it. Back in 2002, my older children and I lost our home and most of our possessions in a house fire. All of my children are survivors.

That Memorial Day in 2019, we had gotten into the bathroom in the nick of time. We could feel the wind. We could feel how strong it was, hitting the apartment building.

We prayed as the tornado hit. I stayed focused because I had to stay strong for the kids, and I didn’t want them to think that I was afraid. After it passed, we left the bathroom to see that the whole roof was gone, and the wall of the living room blew down—because we were living on the top floor of our apartment home.

It was after 11 p.m. and it was quiet. We had to scream for help. We went on social media to say, “Hey, we’re trapped.”

We started hearing neighbors saying, “We hear you, we hear you, you’re not alone,” and “I’m your neighbor downstairs. We know you’re up there.” They worked together to get us out, making kind of a human ladder.

The next morning, we went up to the apartment but we weren’t able to save much. We had to climb in through the window. The place was crumbled. All we could save were some clothes and a few things from the kitchen.

We lost most everything. We had lived there just three months.

Pulling Together

The next day, the community came together: People were out there with barbecue grills cooking for everyone, and collecting shampoo, body wash, diapers, food, water – whatever was needed. People were trying to salvage whatever they could. Others were helping them and making sure everyone had something to eat and drink.

My friends said that I went straight into “drill sergeant” mode, like I had when my kids and I survived the fire. I had to keep their minds together and put them on survival mode. The most important thing at that time was finding shelter.

We stayed in a hotel for a week and then moved to another apartment with a six-month lease. Friends and family gave us genuine help. Everybody pulled together.

A Helping Hand

Somewhere, I heard about the $5,000 in relief funds available to tornado survivors from KeyBank. I got connected with the local KeyBank branch.

Through the whole process, KeyBank really went the extra mile, from making sure I emailed all the right documentation to keeping me aware of where we were at each step. I used that $5,000 as down payment assistance on a loan to buy a new home, with Key helping me through the approval process the entire way.

KeyBank helped me tremendously. It was a gift from God.

Now I come home from a long day at work and sit on the porch of my house and relax. Maybe I get in my pool. I love to cook and listen to music. This year I’ll have my first grandchild, a girl, and she will have a fenced-in backyard thanks to the help of KeyBank. She’ll be able to run around and play once she gets old enough.

My entire family – we’re happy. Happy and truly blessed.

Lavonne Meyer is a Dayton-area resident. She closed on her new home in November 2019, just in time to invite family and friends over to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.

A coalition of financial institutions and nonprofit organizations aided Dayton-area homeowners needing assistance from tornado damage in 2019. This coalition tapped a $5 million fund made available through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati’s Disaster Reconstruction Program (DRP). Renters like Lavonne in the affected counties were potentially eligible for $5,000 toward the purchase of a home. KeyBank was among the coalition partners in the program, which closed in 2021.