Prior to hurricane Katrina Lynda and her husband George lived in a quaint, comfortable, home that had been in George’s family for three generations. Lynda has the gift of a green thumb, and would spend her free time relaxing by pruning, plucking and primping the foliage around their home which was a stone’s throw from the shore of the Mississippi Gulf. George and Lynda presumed they would spend their peaceful retirement years in their quaint beach home. That was until Hurricane Katrina roared ashore August 29, 2005.
George and Lynda decided to ride out hurricane Katrina in their home with their three dogs. The threat of tidal surge did not enter their minds since their home sat upon one of the highest elevation points in Bay St. Louis. They did not anticipate the 30 foot wall of salty, fuel contaminated water that slammed into the town of Bay St. Louis. As the water quickly spilled onto the community; George, Lynda and their dogs spent hours staying afloat in the cold driving wind, rain and filth. Lynda recalls that the surge was so strong at first that it sucked their shoes right off of their feet. The couple saw their home float off of the slab, rapidly rushing into the neighbors’ home obliterating both. Completely exhausted and in shock, George, Lynda and their 8 year old Collie took refuge in the destroyed shell of a neighbor’s house. After some time elapsed, local fire officials patrolled the streets for survivors and spotted George and Lynda. Cold, drenched and barefoot they were rescued and later taken to West Point, MS, where they stayed until a FEMA travel trailer was set up on their property.
George, Lynda and their dogs have lived in a small, cramped, travel trailer for over two years now. During that time, it would have been easy to for them to give up hope and become very discouraged. They had essentially fallen through the cracks of the system.
George is disabled and currently requires 24 hour care. Prior to the storm Lynda was the manager of the Lawn and Garden Department at the Waveland, MS K-Mart for several years. Since Katrina she has had to remain home to care for George. Their only source of income is a small Social Security disability check each month.
Finally, in September ’07 they were able to pull together enough money to purchase a basic framing package from 84 Lumber for a 576 sq. ft. house. Fortunately, due to the elevation of the lot, they have been able to rebuild on the original slab. A volunteer team recently completed the roof. Their Case Manager, Kim Cheek, with Volunteers of America has asked us to step in and complete the rebuilding of this home for George and Lynda. She feels that their new home will be vital to George’s peace of mind knowing that he and Lynda will be safe and comfortable once again.
The men and women from Etowah UMC and Mills River UMC of Western North Carolina left their mark all over Bay St. Louis, Waveland and Diamondhead, MS the week of January 13 – 19. The team at Lynda’s was led by Jeff “Wonder Boy” Lauffer. This was his first mission trip and he did an awesome job fielding endless questions and keeping the team on task. With his capable leadership they were able to fit the shower unit into a rather tight bathroom. (We didn’t need that jack stud anyway!) Additional framing for the HVAC and other assorted necessities was done. Thanks to Coach Stanley and John “Red Eye” Dunn, the rough wiring was completed. Eddie “Frog Man” Ellis cleared the toilet drain of a family of frogs that had moved in. The windows and front door were installed, the house wrapped and the siding team completed their task just in time on Friday, after dodging the monsoon on Wednesday.
A highlight of the week was our opening prayer with Lynda on Monday morning. Another was the a nice presentation of donated gifts to Lynda from Mills River UMC Friday afternoon. She was most appreciative and so excited that her home is taking shape. The Lord truly blessed our efforts and kept us safe, even on the return trip home in a snowstorm.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without “Queen” Freda’s fantastic cooking all week. No weight was lost on this trip.
Since we were there, Kim Cheek, Lynda’s Case Manager, has had the HVAC installed. We are praying that the rough plumbing and rough-in inspection will be done this week in preparation for the team from Nokomis, IL the following week. Please pray for a responsive inspector!
For the third year in a row the fearless boys from Nokomis, IL made their trek southward to help those affected by Katrina. This year we were fortunate to have them work primarily on Lynda’s home. On what could be described as the plumbing job from hades, we sincerely thank Denny Bauman, Joe Murphy, Russell Rhoades, Lester Hamlin, Butch Dooley and the Michigan guy, Don Wierenga, for bringing their time, talents and resources to this project and others for the week. In January we thought we would be able to reuse the plumbing in the existing slab. However, after having a licensed plumber take a look at it, he indicated that the Bay St. Louis inspectors would not approve it. He then quoted about $4000 to do the job! Obviously, he didn’t want to cut up all that concrete…but Lester did! Fortunately, he brought his concrete saw; and, armed with a new blade, went to work. Butch, Joe and Don were smart enough to go work on other jobs around town while Denny and Russell helped Lester. With the oversight of the plumber to advise on local codes the job was 90% done by the end of the week.
On Wednesday we were interested bystanders as Lynda finally received the Mississippi Cottage she had applied for a number of months ago. The state of MS has received a $700 million federal grant to replace between 3000 and 4000 FEMA trailers with these one, two and three bedroom “cottages”. They are much nicer than the trailers. After two and a half years in a camper Lynda is quite excited to be able to move into the cottage until the home is finished. The state is allowing the homeowner to use the cottages for up to two years.It definitely takes some of the pressure off for her.
The week ended with the presentation of a Wal Mart gift card to Lynda from the folks at Nokomis UMC. Great job guys!
Our plumber friend was to have finished the job begun by the Nokomis team. However, after putting us off for a week he decided to back out of the job. Fortunately, the team from Platt Springs UMC in Lexington, SC rode in on their white horses! While the rest of the team was busy working on Operation Andrew, Michael Hutchins, Eddie Edwards and Bud Summers completed the plumbing and called for the inspection. The previous week we had hired a licensed electrician to move the electrical panel and complete that rough in. The inspector came first thing Tuesday morning, left a list of items to be completed and amazingly showed up again after lunch and approved us to go to final! Prayer definitely works!
This allowed the rest of the team including Leader Bob Sargent, Mike Hutchins, Kim Hutchins, Clarice Smalley, Debbie Jones and Lori Kirkham to work all day Wednesday putting in a walkway to the cottage and hanging insulation and sheetrock. It is amazing what they got done in one day. God really does use His willing servants to accomplish great things. By the end of the day they had all the insulation in and half the sheetrock hung.
While the balance of the team from Cornerstone UMC, Rock Hill, SC and Highland Park UMC, Florence, SC were working at Operation Haleigh Marvin Horton, Neal Woods, Andrew Edmunds, Michael Holland, Charlie McCoy and Keith Corley hung the rest of the sheetrock and completed mudding and taping. Lynda is really excited about her home taking shape.
The Lord sent four lovely angels to finish the sheetrock at Lynda’s this week. They were Captain Chris Santo, Sophie Ramsay and Janet Gonski from Mid-Atlantic Community Church in MD and Kim Brown from Simpsonville UMC in SC. When they were in the middle of sanding they truly did look like angels hovering in the white clouds of dust. Somehow they survived the week and managed to finish, prime and paint the sheetrock walls and ceilings.
We always say that we are not only here to build homes, but more importantly, to build relationships. This team was able to spend time with Lynda which was a blessing. Lynda was so touched by their kindness and work ethic that she presented each one of them with a special personal memento that she had recovered after the storm. This was her way of giving back by giving these ladies a piece of her past. How awesome is that?
Also, there was a team from Warner Robbins, GA staying at Diamondhead UMC with us for the first half of the week. They have a plant ministry. They had come to town with their van loaded with various plants and trees and spent the week going around to finished homes contributing to the landscaping and raising spirits. What a great ministry! They had heard us talk about Lynda and George so on their last day they brought their remaining plants over to Lynda’s. In short order they were able to transform the road side of the house from a weed patch to a landscaped yard. This meant so much to Lynda since she apparently has a horticultural background. Way to go Roger, Shirley and Dave. God is truly good…all the time!
This week Lynda’s home was blitzed by Platt Springs UMC from Columbia, SC and First UMC of Montgomery, AL.
The Platt Springs crew headed by Bob Sargent tackled the task of putting down ceramic tile throughout the home. It was a tough week on their knees but Debbie Jones and teens Jessica, Ross, Ryan, Tori and Marlee persevered through the heat and humidity to finish the job just in time for the team from First UMC led by Claire Smith to come in and hang doors, install trim, finish the electrical and plumbing, except for the kitchen. There are a few items remaining, but this week definitely put Lynda and George over the top. With the proceeds from the grant they just received they will be able to complete the home soon. Many thanks to all who participated in this project.