HOUSE BLESSING: Resident celebrates repaired home

Published 5:04 pm Monday, March 16, 2015

JONATHAN ROWE | DAILY NEWS LAST NAIL: Whichards Beach Road resident George Ballance stands beside an artwork given by a volunteer team, World Renew, a Christian reform church. The artwork hangs on what the team calls a “last nail,” symbolizing the completion of the home’s rebuild.

LAST NAIL: Whichards Beach Road resident George Ballance stands beside an artwork given by a volunteer team, World Renew, a Christian reform church. The artwork hangs on what the team calls a “last nail,” symbolizing the completion of the home’s rebuild.


The United Methodist Disaster Recovery ministry recently hosted a ceremony in Chocowinity, celebrating its rebuild of a home damaged by the April 25 tornadoes.

George Ballance, a Whichards Beach Road resident whose home suffered major damage from the April 25 tornadoes that ripped through Beaufort County, welcomed representatives of N.C. Emergency Management, representatives from Beaufort County Emergency Management, volunteer teams from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and World Renew, a Christian reform church outreach ministry, two long-term volunteers — a retired couple from Nebraska, representatives from UMDR and local residents and friends to celebrate the house blessing ceremony.

Cliff Harvell, superintendent of UMDR, said Ballance’s home suffered extensive damage from the tornadoes, including water intrusion. The damaged segment of the house had to be rebuilt and resided, among other repairs and cosmetic work. Due to a lack of insurance on the home, N.C. Emergency Management ended up giving Ballance a grant to aid in the repair of the home. However, the grant covered the cost of the materials to rebuild the home, but wasn’t enough to hire a contractor to do the work, Harvell said.

Ballance’s home, like others rebuilt through the UMDR, a faith-based recovery ministry, was rebuilt through volunteer labor. Teams from all over the nation and as far as Canada come to the area and volunteer their time to help rebuild homes through the coordination of the the UMDR.

Though Ballance’s home is not quite finished, the house blessing, a ceremony held each time the UMDR rebuilds a home, was held in order for the volunteer teams to be apart of it.

“We’re not finished with it, but the team that’s here that is leaving this weekend wanted to be apart of (the house blessing),” Harvell said.

The ceremony featured words from volunteers with World Renew, Harvell and Ballance, as well as prayers, songs and the lighting of a “unity candle,” signifying God’s love. Also, World Renew hosted what they call a “last nail” ceremony, in which a nail is put into the wall or somewhere in the house that signifies the completion of the project. The nail was placed in a wall of Ballance’s home and used to hang a unique piece of artwork from the World Renew team.

The volunteer team from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, known as Assisting People and Planning Learning Experiences and Service (APPLES) had spent time over the week working on Ballance’s home, as well as a home across the street, also damaged in the tornadoes that UMDR was coordinating repair for. APPLES team member Kristen Weakley, a junior at UNC-CH, gave comments on the team, which was formulated through the university as an alternative to a spring break trip.

“So we’re on a disaster relief trip and learning about the Chocowinity community and what it’s like here,” Weakley said. “We’re working, mainly, across the street and painting and putting the finishing touches on the house there. We did get to meet the couple whose house we’re building. It’s really rewarding to be able to help them. They’ve been out of their house for almost a year now because the tornadoes were last April so we’re excited to finish it up.”

Ballance gave remarks during the house blessing, thanking all the people who had helped in the rebuilding of his house and those who made it possible. Being a N.C. State fan, he also gave humorous comments, joking with the Carolina students who helped with his home.

“In the beginning after the tornado, I really and truly didn’t know which way to turn or what to do,” Ballance said. “They all stepped forward and volunteered, and it showed me what humanity really is about and how good people really are. They’ve worked on it so long and so hard and they’ve just been wonderful.”

Harvell said UMDR continues its disaster relief initiative, juggling around 40 different projects between Beaufort County and Elizabeth City, some of which are projects as a result of damage left from Hurricane Irene in 2011. Currently, it has rebuilt about 25 to 30 homes in eastern North Carolina. The ministry has volunteer teams booked up until September, but Harvell says money is running out to even start some of the projects left. The ministry rebuilds homes of disaster victims through pulling together money from victims’ home insurance, grant monies through N.C. Emergency Management and through donations and volunteer labor, Harvell said.

“We’re at the point right now with my operation that I don’t have the money to stick my neck out to where I can say, ‘Ok, let’s go ahead and get started with it,’” Harvell said. “But we are going to continue on as long as we can and try to help everybody. But the reality is we can’t help everybody because we run out of money. We’ve been blessed to have so many volunteers. We’ve got volunteers coming, if we can secure funding for these projects.”

Harvell said UMDR needs money to continue its outreach, and if someone would like to donate in general, or for a specific project, donations are gladly accepted.

For more information or to donate, contact Cliff Harvell at 252-341-7008.