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'Home for Christmas' in TX

Laura Dyer and her 10-year-old daughter ushered in the Christmas season by painting tree ornaments.

BY SUSAN KIM | ABILENE, Texas | December 24, 2002

"Some people haven't begun to recover."

—Laura Dyer

Laura Dyer and her 10-year-old daughter ushered in the Christmas season by painting tree ornaments for flood survivors.

"We had lots of friends who were flooded," said Dyer, an Abilene resident.

Dyer said she sees -- more than five months later -- some people still struggling to come to terms with the havoc wreaked when Abilene got more than a foot of rain in six hours.

Nearly 800 Federal Emergency Management Agency grants went to those impacted by the flood. There were some 1,300 applications.

"Some people haven't begun to recover," said Dyer. "They're waiting on a contractor. Some people had stuff stolen by fraudulent contractors."

As if flood recovery weren't stressful enough, many families feel extra pressure to make this Christmas special. But after losing everything they are having trouble realizing that dream. "The holidays can be overwhelming," said Dyer.

Through a campaign called "Home for Christmas," volunteers in Abilene decorated more than 400 tree ornaments.

The campaign's name belies the fact that a lot of flood survivors won't be in their homes for Christmas, acknowledged Dorothy Thompson, administrative coordinator for the Taylor/Jones County Disaster Recovery Initiative.

The initiative, which comprises faith-based and community-based groups, coordinated the citywide campaign. Children from Abilene's public schools, students at local universities, and local artists painted the ornaments.

"The ornament could celebrate you're back home, or let you know the community is supporting you and hasn't forgotten you if you're not home," said Thompson.

Giving tree ornaments can be a form of spiritual care, added Thompson, because Christmas decorations are just one of the many irreplaceable personal items people lose during floods.

"This is a symbolic gift from the community," she said. "Christmas is always an emotional time."

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