November 7, 2008

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

A flood of hope is needed

David SilerMike and Pat have been living in their travel trailer on their front lawn for nearly five months.

When they bought it several months ago, they never dreamed that it would become their home. They consider themselves lucky enough to have had a way to live while their home is restored following the June flooding in Martinsville.

The flood waters receded very soon after the rains fell, but here they are, five months later, and their floors are bare wood, their kitchen is completely gutted and a lingering musty smell remains. A contractor was hired to do some work, but messed up the job and made off with $5,000. Mike and Pat hope to be back in their house before the cold winter weather sets in.

Two very generous men came in for four days to volunteer their time and skills to help take care of a few of the most important repairs to help Mike and Pat move back into their home.

These men, Tom and Ed, drove all the way from Rocky Mount, Va., bringing with them the prayers of their home parish, St. Francis of Assisi, and a check for $2,500. This money will be combined with a $3,000 grant from Catholic Charities to rebuild Mike and Pat’s home.

Next to Mike and Pat’s home in this nice middle-class neighborhood sits a house completely empty and abandoned since the flood. This is one of countless homes in the area where the owners simply walked away because they had no way to pay for the necessary repairs.

Mike and Pat are just one of about 500 families in the Martinsville area that are still not back in their homes, and desperately need volunteer help to finish repairs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has come and gone and left some financial assistance, but far too little to pay for the needed labor.

After visiting with Mike and working a bit with Tom and Ed, I was taken to another home of a young couple with three children and a fourth child on the way. This family was living in a rental home alongside a creek that was completely destroyed by the flood. FEMA gave them a check for $12,000 to cover the loss of their furnishings. They took the check and bought a house on a 2½-acre lot—yes, for $12,000!

The house previously caught fire, destroying the addition on the back and causing extensive smoke damage. At this stage, the house is completely gutted, awaiting volunteers to help put in the windows, drywall, roofing, flooring, plumbing, electrical, etc. The supplies have been purchased by the city recovery organization, but there is no money to pay for the labor.

Through the generosity of many of you who have contributed money through your parish’s second collections, we have been able to hire a woman to work with St. Martin of Tours Parish in Martinsville to coordinate relief efforts.

Jane Crady, who cut her teeth coordinating volunteers in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina, is desperately seeking both skilled and unskilled volunteer labor to help put families back into their homes.

If you and a group of volunteers can give some time to help some of these desperate families, please call Crady at 317-642-7322, e-mail her at or log on to and sign up to volunteer.

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at

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