Flood Victim Celebrates Christmas in Repaired Home, Offers Advice to Those on Waiting Lists
Nonprofits working in the Midlands of South Carolina are hoping Christmas lights will shine focus on flood recovery. They also hope charitable giving will boost donations during the gift-giving season. 14 months after the flood, South Carolina Public Radio talks with two homeowners, celebrating the holidays on opposite sides of recovery.
A Lot to Celebrate This Christmas
14 months after the October 2015 flood, Mary Daden is now living in her repaired Marstellar Street home. The day her home was officially completed, only the windows, which were donated by Taylors Windows and Screens, needed to be installed. In total, the home sustained $30,000 in damages during the historic event.
"She had really significant roof damage," said Leah Cossette, Community Engagement Manager with SBP (Formerly known as Saint Bernard Project). The water was leaking into her house and there was extensive mold in a number of different rooms throughout the house," she added.
SBP is one of 45 local and national United Way of the Midlands partners that make up the Midlands Flood Recovery Group (MFRG). The organizations are tasked with coordinating and working together to repair and rebuild homes damaged during the flood.
The day repair work was completed to Daden's house, local holiday lighting company the Illumineers, were on hand to install Christmas lights. Jason Crowder said the company wanted to shed light on the ongoing flood recovery efforts in the Midlands.
When we heard about all the flood victims that are still displaced from their house, we wanted to bring a little light to that situation.
"When we heard about all the flood victims that are still displaced from their house, we wanted to bring a little light to that situation."
For Daden, this year, the lights will not only celebrate Christmas, but also the many volunteers who exhibited the spirit of Christmas all year long.
"The most beautiful people came through here," Daden said. "[They] "came from out of town to help us, all of them. They were beautiful people."
Personal Relationships Are Important
Daden first met members of SBP in January. " It was a blessing to meet all those people. I never knew that people would do that much for you when something happens to you," she said.
Cossette said personal relationships play an an integral part in recovery. "It's really important to build a relationship with our homeowners even before we start construction on the some," she said.
20 Volunteers Day
SBP is currently working on six sites in the area, but is also in desperate need of more volunteers.
"We actually have an all-time low number of volunteers. We need 20 volunteers per day to operate at max capacity and to keep all of our sites running." The organization provides everything volunteers will need to accomplish tasks," Cossette said.
"Anyone can be a volunteer with SBP. You don't need any skills or experience. We will provide all the training, supervision, tools and materials needed to work on a house and to bring a family back," she added. In addition to the six sites it's currently working, Cossette said the organization has 50 more on a waitlist.
Waiting on Recovery
Juanita Smith’s house was damaged during the historic 2015 flood. After nearly four feet of water receded out of her house, the floors eroded and buckled. The foundation shifted and cracked. The crawl space carried standing water. Leaks were left in the roof and extreme mold covered the house.
Smith, 72, her children and grandchildren lived in a motel for three months before moving into more stable housing. Today they live in a two-story apartment not far from their flood-damage home.
“Miss Juanita is still working her way through our application process. The next stage for us is really going to be to find funding for the project,” said Leah Cossette. "SBP is estimating around $70,000 to fully repair this house," she added.
We Still Have a Roof
Smith was born and raised in Columbia. She spent 12 years in New York and later returned to the Midlands where she worked 30 years as a retail worker until she retired. Despite losing her home in the flood, she remains optimistic and hopeful for a full recovery. Shrouded in her faith, Smith shares how she keeps herself and family encouraged.
Advice from a Recovered Flood Survivor
According to the United Way of the Midlands, more than 1,000 homeowners are still displaced from their homes. Mary Daden and her family will celebrate Christmas in their newly-repaired home. The Columbia resident offers advice to those still on waiting lists and also to flood victims, in need, who have not come forward for help.
“I would say pray a lot, for one thing. And the other thing don’t be afraid to tell someone that you need help.”