WV VOAD member agencies are making progress on two new homes that have been a long time coming for several flood survivors in Nicholas and Kanawha counties.
The West Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church is leading the rebuild of a house in Richwood for a senior who lost everything when the Cherry River overran its banks during the June 2016 flood.
“He was a contractor, but he’s had a lot of health issues,” said Jack Lipphardt, who coordinates the conference’s response to the June 2016 flood. “He contracted pneumonia, had several surgeries on his leg and back and there are a number of health issues that prevent his ability to work and derive an income. He was just a natural fit for us to come in and offer some help.”
The senior has been assisted by a United Methodist disaster case manager, and he’s been living in a camper near his property while waiting for his new home to be built.
With about $25,000 in funding from the conference, $20,000 from the Disaster Relief Fund and volunteer labor provided by the United Methodist Church and World Renew, his new home is now complete except for flooring, some interior work and a new heating, cooling and ventilation system.
“World Renew really wanted to build this house, and their initial hope was to build it soup-to- nuts,” Lipphardt said. “They ran into some schedule issues with their volunteers, so we needed to contract to put the footers in.”
The footers were poured in February, “but then March happened,” Lipphardt said. “Snow, rain, ice, and even when the sun was out, it was cold. We weren’t able to mix mortar or lay block — March just killed us.”
The project faced repeated weather delays. But in the past couple of months, volunteer teams collaborated to get the work done. United Methodist volunteer crews began the framework, and then World Renew brought in volunteers from around the country to install windows, set up the electricity and plumbing and do the drywall.
“It’s been a neat partnership with so many groups working to get this done,” Lipphardt said.
The house, which was elevated about nine feet to prevent future flood damage, is expected to be ready for the client to move in by mid-summer.
In Clendenin, a new home is underway for a couple whose property was ravaged when the Elk River flooded in June 2016.
Jerry and Anna Rucker lived right next to Herbert Hoover High School on the property where Jerry grew up. They were getting ready for church — Anna is a part-time minister and attends several local churches — and barely had time to get out of their home as flood waters rose.
Just two weeks earlier they had finished remodeling their home, installing new flooring and moving in new furniture.
Four feet of water got into their house, eventually destroying it and two other buildings on their property. In the coming days, the swollen river would bring down nearby trees and wash away their riverbank and dock.
“This is a couple who, over the years, has done all kinds of things to help out other folks in their community,” said Tina Smith, the Ruckers’ Disaster Case Manager.
Last year, even while they were displaced and in the midst of their own recovery, they volunteered to collect supplies for hurricane survivors in Texas and Florida.
The couple has been staying in the vacant home of a neighbor who recently passed away.
Just this month, the footers for their new home have been poured and the rebuilding process has begun. The home is being constructed by volunteers with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), with funding provided by Community Lutheran Partners, Lutheran Disaster Response, MDS and the VOAD Disaster Relief Fund. The homeowners contributed $20,000 toward the rebuilding.
To avoid future flooding, the homesite has been moved to an elevated plot of land about 100 yards uphill from their previous house, and the foundation will be elevated about four feet as an added precaution.
The goal is to get the family moved into their new home by early fall.
“It’s great to see things moving along,” Smith said. “This is just a really special family.”