Making a house a home again after Hurricane Florence

July 11, 2019

Roughly three-quarters of a mile down a dusty dirt road sits a home. In its 13 years, this home has seen three children grow into adulthood and a few hurricanes, but nothing like Florence. Ms. Ingrid, the owner, said that the road the home sits on runs through family land.

As soon as her ancestors got off the boat at Ellis Island, they made their way to coastal North Carolina to settle. They were fishermen by trade, shrimpers to be exact, and the land they lived on bumps right up to the Intracoastal Waterway.

Ms. Ingrid grew up surrounded by family, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and it’s still that way. Looking around the home, you can see it was filled with love. Family pictures are on the walls, with a display of certificates of achievement too.

Since the storm, the home has felt more like just a house, and it has been filled with struggle. Ms. Ingrid has visited the hospital more than once for respiratory issues related to mold exposure. She is dependent on oxygen and undergoes dialysis once a week. Her daughter stays with her a few days each week, helping with transportation and grocery shopping.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, North Carolina Catholics Volunteer partnered with the Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry (WARM) to repair Ms. Ingrid’s home. WARM’s mission is to repair, rebuild and make homes accessible and to inspire service, generosity and hope. They serve low-income homeowners, many of whom are elderly or disabled, in Brunswick, New Hanover, and Pender counties. WARM also assists those who can’t afford costly Hurricane Florence repairs. Through partnership and collaboration, North Carolina Catholics Volunteer provided labor and WARM provided the tools, supplies and an on-site contractor to complete the work on Ms. Ingrid’s home.

As the group started their morning’s work, they divided into teams. Team one began in the living room, moving furniture around and ripping out what was left of the carpet. From there, the group removed linoleum flooring, exposing the subflooring – which was in good shape. Nails and staples were then hammered down, creating a smooth surface.

Mr. Cary, one of the volunteers for the day, under the guidance of the on-site contractor Chris, cut the Luan flooring that will lie on top of the subflooring, creating a surface for the vinyl tile. As Mr. Cary cut the flooring, Dani, a Catholic Charities Disaster Case Manager, stapled the pieces down.

While half the team was working in the living room area, team two discovered a surprise in the dining room. After cautiously moving furniture, team two removed linoleum from the dining area and discovered a soft, rotten area of the floor. The site contractor, Chris, needed to develop a plan of action to remove and repair the area. After some troubleshooting, it was decided that the bad flooring would be removed and a brace would be added to one of the studs. The area would then be treated for mold growth, allowed to dry, and the sub-flooring replaced. With a plan in place, the volunteers began the first step of the process, clearing out the damaged flooring.

Back in the living room, following a much deserved break for lunch, the second layer of flooring was installed and primed for the vinyl tile. Volunteers quickly learned how sticky things get, as their hands were covered in adhesive and their fingers began sticking together. A few hours and over 135 square feet later, Ms. Ingrid had a new floor.

The dinning room project developed into more than this group could complete in their day on the worksite. The group was able to complete installation of the sub-flooring, creating a strong foundation for the next set of volunteers.

As this team from North Carolina Catholics Volunteer wrapped up the day, they moved furniture back into the living room and the space began to look like a home again. However, Ms. Ingrid’s kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms still needed repairs, projects which could potentially take up to a month before being completed. WARM will be there every step of the way, and North Carolina Catholics Volunteer will continue to support this much needed work in the community.

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