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Ongoing coverage of South Carolina's recovery from the flooding of 2015.What had been Lindsay Langdale's Columbia home October 3, 2015 was a flooded ruin the next day.This coverage is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In October of 2015, South Carolina received rainfall in unprecedented amounts over just a few days time. By the time the rain began to slacken, the National Weather Service reported that the event had dumped more than two feet of water on the state. The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the subsequent flooding was the worst in 75 years.

More Hands Needed To Rebuild Flood-Damaged Homes

voluteer messages on studs
Thelisha Eaddy
SC Public Radio

Currently through the Midlands Flood Recovery Group, 16 rebuild projects are happening in Richland and Lexington Counties. The breakdown of that is: three in the City of Columbia, six in Richland County, and seven in Lexington County. This adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction work being done to flood-damaged homes at little to no cost to the homeowners. Volunteers working with nonprofits are getting the work done, but organizations say more hands are needed to continue the work.

Reach Global is the missions agency of the Evangelical Free Church of America.  The organization’s crisis response team has partnered with Riverside Community Church in Columbia, SC to help flood survivors recovery. Katie Manning is the Columbia flood Site Coordinator. She said the work Reach Global has accomplished would not be possible without the hands of volunteers.

“Volunteers come with a variety of experience, enthusiasm. [They have] a desire to serve and just want to help in any way they can.”

That was the case for the group of volunteers working on Karen Albert’s house. Tom Basile is a pastor of a Baptist Church in Staten Island, New York. He said during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, he watched how people from all over the country helped survivors. He said after Super Storm Sandy devastated parts of the United States in 2012, he anticipated the same kind of help.

“We found resources to commit to providing for building materials and then we hosted group after group that came and spent a week with us.”

Basile said together he and volunteers helped Sandy survivors rebuild and they wanted to do the same for survivors of South Carolina’s 2015 flood.

“When we learned about this flood last October, we began to pray then that God would open up the door for us to set a period of time to come down here and dedicate to help and not charge.

The Problem and Cost of Mold

Manning said Albert had her home treated for mold right after the flood, but post-flood processes and procedures slowed rebuilding, which gave mold a second opportunity to invade the house.

Click here to listen: Katie Manning and Karen Albert explain how mold took over Albert’s house.

Karen Albert's home
Credit Thelisha Eaddy / SC Public Radio
SC Public Radio
Karen Albert's home

“She had contacted general contractors to come and look at her house to see if they could help with rebuilding, but they wouldn’t touch the house because of the mold,” Manning said.

Albert’s next step was to contact companies that do mold remediation, but “the quotes they gave were just out of her price range. So she couldn’t afford the mold remediation, which could help start the process of rebuilding,” Manning added.

As we have reported, the cost to remove mold can be very expensive. SC Public Radio’s Vincent Kolb-Lubo explained in  SC Volunteer Organizations Treat Mold For Long-Term Recovery.

"Affording a market-rate contractor can put homeowners in the hole anywhere from eight to 20 thousand dollars, depending on the extent of the outbreak. Many who have been denied FEMA aid, small business administration loans and denied insurance claims have little recourse."

RELATED CONTENT: The hands of volunteers rebuild a Nesmith home. All Hands is another volunteer-based nonprofit doing rebuilds throughout the state’s flood-impacted areas. The house in the below video is located in Nesmith, about 20 minutes from Kingstree in Williamsburg County. Site manager Kaitlyn said the flood damage primarily came from the roof. All of the ceiling, insulation and dry needed to be replaced.

Right Now, Recovery Starts with a Red Dot

"When we met Mrs. Karen, she was really at a point of hopelessness and not knowing if she'd ever get back in her home," Manning said.

Reach Global coordinated volunteers from Pennsylvania to gut Albert's home and treat it for mold. Manning said in just one week, the house was ready for the rebuilding process. The only cost Albert incurred was "the price of two dumpsters and some mold treatment," she added.

Manning said Reach Global was able to find Albert and help address her unmet, flood-related needs after Albert called the United Way's 2-1-1 information and referral service. Fro there, Manning said a red dot connected the two women.

Click here to listen: Flood survivor Karen Albert shares how a pin, a red dot, on a computer screen connected her to the flood recovery resources she needed.

It is important to note, 2-1-1 is an information and referral service of the United Way and has been taking flood survivor calls since after the flood. The 2-1-1 call system that filters into Hearts and Hands Disaster Recovery (HHDR) was instituted at the beginning of April. Since that time, HHDR has instituted a one-week call back policy.

Karen Albert
Credit Thelisha Eaddy / SC Public Radio
SC Public Radio
In her backyard, Karen Albert standing in front of the creek that flooded her yard and home during the October 2015 rain event and flood.