On Thanksgiving, 'I ain't leaving this house'.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | BROUSSARD, La. | November 28, 2002



"I mopped water for two days and two nights. There was water all over the place."

—Anna Belle Verrett


It's Thanksgiving and Anna Belle Verrett won't leave her house.

Nearly two months after Hurricane Lili hit here, her home still stinks of mold and mildew.

The insulation in her roof is soaked. The floors and ceilings are ruined.

Mold, however, is the least of Verrett's concerns: she lost her roof and bed to the storm, and she's been sleeping on her couch ever since.

"It pull the roof off my house. It pull some of the roof off the carport. And I had somebody's building in my yard," Verrett said. "I was scared half to death."

The 71-year-old wasn't doing so well before Lili came tearing through Louisiana in early October. She has been afflicted with breast cancer, severe arthritis and cataracts, and six years ago she fell and broke her hip. The wound never healed correctly, and she now uses a wheelchair.

The only living family member she has is a daughter who Verrett said became a drug addict and ran her into debt by using her credit card. The only other family she has is her pet Chihuahua, Star, and a young man who buys her groceries twice a month.

Verrett, however, refuses to be discouraged, and she refuses to be forced out of her home-by anything.

Working from her wheelchair, she tried her best to clean up after the hurricane, as a week of steady rain poured through the holes in her house.

"I mopped water for two days and two nights," she said. "There was water all over the place."

Verrett had her roof replaced using what little money she received from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) -- about $1,300 -- and her insurance company -- about $800.

Now local United Methodists are making sure the rest of her home gets repaired and cleaned up.

Sarah Schoeffler, a member of a disaster task force run by the Louisiana Conference of United Methodists, said she has petitioned FEMA on behalf of Verrett, in an attempt to get more repair money.

Whether or not the money comes through, Schoeffler is organizing volunteer groups to come in and help-like the four-person team working at Verrett's house this week.

The team, led by the Rev. Jack O'Dell of the Broadmoor United Methodist Church, drove down from Shreveport, La. O'Dell brought along his son, Noah, 13, as well as Zanna Phillips, 21, and Whitney Spurlack, 17.

They scrubbed mold from the kitchen and bathroom.

The big project, Schoeffler said, will be to remove all the wet, moldy insulation from the ceilings.

"It's going to be a real nasty job to shovel all that stuff out of there," she said.

Verrett doesn't care how long the job takes. She plans on being around for a while. She said she comes from tough Cajun stock-Verrett's mother died when she was 105.

"I been living here since 1956," she said. "I'll sleep right on the sofa. I ain't leaving this house."


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