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Recovering after a Disaster: IRT helps a couple return home after devastating flooding in Louisiana

September 20, 2017

ABOVE: IRT’s volunteer construction team with Louisiana home owners Ken and Debbie in front of their home that was damaged by floods.

Last summer, the small town of Denham Springs, Louisiana outside Baton Rouge was one of the areas hardest hit by a devastating flood. The storm, which gained little news coverage across the country, dropped up to 27 inches of rain in a 24-hour period and the swollen Amite River flooded an area 17 miles by 52 miles wide. The storm was considered a one in one-thousand year event. Most families in the area did not have flood insurance because they thought they were far outside the flood plain. However, about 80-90% of all homes and businesses in Denham Springs had flood damage. Many families experienced major financial hardships as a result of the storm and are still trying to recover and get back into their homes over a year later.

One of these families was Ken and Debbie. A retired couple in their 60s, Ken and Debbie were living a quiet life in Ken’s childhood home he had recently inherited. They got by on a limited, fixed income from retirement and social security benefits. Before the flood, they were enjoying their peaceful lifestyle and their large family. They have four children and nine grandchildren that were keeping them very busy! However, they both struggled with health issues - Ken suffered from an autoimmune syndrome and Debbie had severe back problems. Both of their conditions greatly reduced their mobility. Like most families in their area, they did not have flood insurance.

When it started to rain that fateful day in August, 2016, Debbie and Ken were not concerned. But, their worry started to grow as they watched with horror from their living room as the water slowly began to creep towards their house, engulfing Debbie’s car in the front yard.

When they realized the water was going to flood their home, it was too late to evacuate on their own.  Fortunately, their son-in-law had a boat and came to their rescue just as the force of the water broke through the windows and entered the house.

Ken and Debbie’s house during the flooding.

When they returned home after the flood waters had receded, they discovered almost everything in their one-story house had been damaged. For the first few months after the flood, they lived with family and then in a small RV, but eventually decided to return to the house so that they could focus more on the clean-up and restoration.

Without insurance or the physical ability to do the work themselves, Ken and Debbie had to rely entirely on the kindness of others to repair their home.


This photo of the gutted bathroom reflects the damage to the interior of the rest of the home. 

IRT’s skilled construction team met Ken and Debbie almost a year after the flood when the interior of their house was still in disrepair. The team spent an entire week fixing their bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen. The damage was so extensive that almost every room had to be gutted and rebuilt.   

Paul (left) and Steve (right), IRT volunteers, hard at work mid-week repairing Ken and Debbie’s home.
Chuck, Ken, and John worked all week repairing the bathroom. They called themselves “the three men in a tub”. We love to see our volunteers having fun while working hard!
Our dedicated team worked for a week in the hot and humid Louisiana summer climate solely on Ken and Debbie’s home. Despite the hard work, the team of eight enjoyed the opportunity to give something back to this “wonderful couple.”  IRT volunteer John Zawis said, “We were able to witness a major change in Ken and Debbie’s outlook. When we first arrived, they seemed sad and somewhat dejected from the long journey since last August, but when we left they were cheerful and elated to finally be on the path to normalcy. That’s what makes this all this worthwhile!”

We are thrilled Ken and Debbie are now able to enjoy their home just as it used to be. We wish them the best of luck with their health and their grandchildren!

 

 

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