A North Texas multimillionaire is combing through dozens of applications after promising to let two families victimized by December's deadly tornadoes live in two of his mansions for just $1 a month, for at least three months.
Tarrant County businessman Ron Sturgeon says he has two $2 million mansions for sale in Colleyville. One is about 7,500 square feet and the other one is close to 10,000 square feet, and while they're sitting vacant, Sturgeon thought he might help out tornado victims by letting displaced families live there.
"I was moved by all the pictures of the lost, misplaced dogs, and I had not seen the pictures of all the devastation because I was out of the country," he said. "When I saw the news I realized that I'm so blessed to have these two huge homes sitting vacant – one of them is completely furnished. And I wanted to do something."
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Ten tornadoes ripped through several counties in North Texas the day after Christmas, killing 11 people, damaging more and destroying hundreds of homes.
Sturgeon posted his offer on his Facebook page shortly after the storms, and the post went viral around the world. Over the last week, he says he and his assistant have received about 75 applications to live in the homes, along with dozens of phone calls from "scammers" and "phonies."
"People are lying about where they lived, people are calling just asking for money or for loans. I'm not trying to save the world," he said. "But I'm a realist and we try to focus on the people that need the help, and I want to cut right through the chase and help them with a great place to stay."
Sturgeon believes more people aren't applying for three main reasons: Colleyville is far away from Rowlett, Garland, Glenn Heights and Ovilla, where most houses were destroyed, and the commute from Colleyville to jobs back in eastern Dallas County could take two hours; many families by now have re-settled with friends, other family members or have been put up in temporary housing; and many families with children are worried about school zoning issues to complete the school year.
Still, Sturgeon said his offer stands even if a family is receiving insurance reimbursement for housing, because he wants to "lift the spirits" of deserving families by providing them a mansion with swimming pools, hot tubs, theater rooms and other amenities.
"I'm way OK with insurance cutting them a check and reimbursing them for rent, because the insurance company is not going to pay for every couch and TV, and they dang sure can't pay for a baby picture," Sturgeon said. "Those are the irreplaceable things, and there's a lot of sorrow. So anything I can do to lift those spirits is good."
Sturgeon said the applying families should have a "great" credit score and must past background checks and verify their home was destroyed in the tornado.
Sturgeon expects to extend the three-month lease, so long as a sale on the property isn't pending. He hopes to have at least one family moved in by the end of this week.
For more information, contact Jennifer Knittel at jenniferk@rdsinvestments.