Tornado victim celebrates completion of new home
Published 2:18 pm Sunday, April 26, 2015
CHOCOWINITY — A Chocowinity woman, whose home was destroyed during last year’s April 25 tornado, celebrated the completion of her new home with friends, family and workers that were instrumental in the home’s reconstruction.
Louise Hill, of Bragaw Lane, and her family met workers and administration with United Methodist Disaster Recovery and friends for a house blessing, a ceremony UMDR hosts after completion of homes built or rebuilt as a result of damage from a disaster. During the ceremony, long-time UMDR volunteers Denny and Patty Brady lit a “unity candle,” representing the love of God, UMDR Superintendent Cliff Harvell spoke about Hill and her experiences during and after the tornado and volunteers with World Renew, a Christian reform church outreach ministry, were present to participate in the celebration.
Over one hundred volunteer teams from 42 states and five Canadian provinces, took part in the construction of Hill’s new home, including the World Renew team, something Harvell feels is a blessing, he said.
“It touches my heart to know the people that have come don’t just see their neighbors as those around them, but those that may be 3,000 miles away and may need help,” Harvell said. “The joy and peace that comes from the work that we do — we’re blessed to be a part of it.”
Also during the blessing, administration with UMDR presented Hill with a Bible, as well as a quilted blanket, as part of the ceremony, welcoming her to her new home. The construction conducted after Hill lost her house was underway all year, as the house blessing ceremony took place one day before the one-year-anniversary of when the tornadoes touched down. Hill, her daughter and granddaughter, who Hill has been living with during the construction, expressed their thanks to UMDR and all the volunteers who offered their time to make it possible.
During the tornado, Hill was at home alone and scared, she said. It’s destruction caused a tree branch to come through the roof less than a foot from where Hill was sitting in her living room. However, on the end of the limb hung the Army uniform of Hill’s late husband, who was a veteran of World War II, something Hill and her family view as some kind of sign. After the limb came through Hill’s roof, two men, who Hill calls her guardian angels, came to the home to see if anyone needed help, and at that point, she was taken to Chocowinity Volunteer Fire Department.
“That tree came through my roof just like an arrow, and I have never been more scared in my life,” she said. “But there (the Army jacket) was on the limb—something magical happened. I’m not sure what.”
UMDR has been actively aiding disaster victims throughout eastern North Carolina, rebuilding around 30 homes and building four new homes, Hill’s being one of them, Harvell said. The organization continues its disaster relief initiative, with around 40 different projects between Beaufort County and Elizabeth City underway, some of which are a result of damage left by Hurrican Irene in 2011. 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.