Amee Ranta and Bill Moore attend a Montgomery County-organized Housing Recovery Resource Fair in August. At the time, they were living out of their car after being displaced by a Memorial Day tornado. They moved into a new apartment in October. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

Tornado recovery: With community’s help, couple finds new home after living out of car

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sixteen tornadoes smashed through our community on Memorial Day 2019. Since that day, the Dayton Daily News has been on the ground reporting on the devastation and the work of recovery. Now, one year later, we are digging into the obstacles that remain, how the coronavirus pandemic has affected rebuilding and how communities have been changed forever. Go here for more of this coverage.

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The two-bedroom townhouse Amee Ranta and her fiance Bill Moore live in now is far more comfortable than the last place they stayed for months following the Memorial Day tornadoes: inside their white Kia.

“I was traumatized,” Ranta said. “We’re still struggling a little bit. But we’re so grateful. We have the nicest landlord.”

The tornado damaged their former one-bedroom Dayton apartment on Bellefontaine Avenue, but it was still livable, according to FEMA, a finding the couple disputed at the time. Just as the storm hit, they were in the middle of moving to a new place. But that place was suddenly needed by the owner’s relatives who lost their home in the tornadoes, Ranta said.

DAYTON STRONG: Memorial Day tornadoes one year later - Slow road to recovery

The unfortunate timing meant all of their belongings waiting out front to be moved were scattered by the wind.

For a time, they spent nights in the car parked at Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway and passed some days inside the casino.

“They had free coffee, free pop and clean restrooms,” Ranta said. “We’d take $1 and put it in a machine and play a penny at a time and laugh. It really helped us because it made us feel like there’s some hope.”

Workers at the casino learned of their plight and didn’t pester them and looked the other way when they parked for the night, Ranta said.

Satellite and drone imagery show the impact of an F4 tornado on an Old North Dayton neighborhood bounded by Troy Street and Kelly and Macready avenues and how the area looks a year after the twister.

“We just felt like it was a really safe place to be,” she said.

The Dayton Daily News wrote about their experience last August, which led to generosity from strangers.

Two young women offered them food, paper towels and $160.

“We were so ecstatic about it,” Ranta said. “That night we got a hotel room and we slept in a bed. We went to the laundromat and did laundry … We felt normal again just by those two young girls helping.”

Ranta, 56, said she was reluctant to ask for help — even from her own children. She thought others were in greater need.

After her “dark place,” Ranta finally sought help through the 211 helpline and received a caseworker through Catholic Social Services, which led to finding their new home in east Dayton. They moved in October and received more assistance with furnishings. Her children have also helped ease some of the financial burden.

 

“The whole thing was ridiculous. If I could have just gotten some help immediately, it really would have been a different story,” she said. “I learned a big lesson.”

Ranta said she’d like to get back to work but is worried about bringing coronavirus home to Moore, who has lung problems.

“The doctor has already looked into his eyes and said, ‘Do not get this because you will not make it through it,’” she said.

Ranta said she and Moore now have everything they need to lead a normal life.

“I’m happy. We’re healthier,” she said. “And we can get up and take a shower and make breakfast and a pot of coffee. I am so grateful for everything.”

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