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Homes languish in TX

For 16 months, Mamie Hamilton has felt the foundation of her home cracking and shifting.

BY HEATHER MOYER | PORT LAVACA, Texas | November 19, 2004

"These were people who still had buckets out all through their homes to catch the rain."

—Lynne De Boer

For 16 months, Mamie Hamilton has felt the foundation of her home cracking and shifting as rain leaked down through holes in the roof. She has also watched black mold spread across the ceiling.

As recovery winds down in Calhoun County, Texas, after Hurricane Claudette hit in July 2003, Hamilton's home is one of few major repairs remaining that will take serious work - and serious funding.

"We still haven't found any options for Mamie yet," said Jean Peercy, Lutheran Disaster Response construction coordinator in Matagorda and Calhoun counties. "But she still is having to live in that home. It would be a major project, costing about $17,000."

That kind of money is not something members of the Calhoun County interfaith group has sitting around - and it won't be easily raised.

Interfaith Christians Assisting in Recovery and Empowerment (ICARE) has about three of major projects remaining before they can finish everything up.

"We want to work on them, but we're not sure how," said Patricia Schaarschmidt, program director of ICARE. "Our goal is to be finished with everything by the end of January, but there is still plenty to do."

Peercy agreed. "People need these repairs because they are still living in these homes, yet we don't have the funding for these things."

Calhoun County is next to Matagorda County - both of which were hit very hard by Claudette. And as with Matagorda County, Calhoun County responders agree that the lack of media attention after Claudette has severely hindered their abilities to secure funding and recruit volunteers.

The damage isn't just physical: the affected families have gone through a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Peercy noted that many kept the faith the entire time, but many also went from frustration to sadness as time ticked by but home repairs didn't happen. When help arrived on their doorsteps, people were elated, Peercy said.

In September, some volunteer relief came in the form of several Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) work teams. Three teams spent three weeks each repairing roofs, ceilings and anything else that was damaged. Friday marks the last day the teams will be in town. They worked on ten projects during their nine-week stay.

Schaarschmidt said the CRWRC presence was incredibly valuable and appreciated. "The families they've helped are thrilled, they're beaming. We've helped transform their lives, not just their homes."

Lynne De Boer and her husband served as the CRWRC volunteer project managers for Calhoun County. Many volunteers felt like they got more out of the repair situations than the families did, she reflected. "We love meeting the residents, they have such faith even though many have lost just about everything. These were people who still had buckets out all through their homes to catch the rain. We just wanted to give them some hope."

All of the volunteers and funders over the past 16 months are appreciated, said Schaarschmidt. "God's been good to us and we're very grateful." She added that the continued cooperation with local churches, Port Lavaca city officials, and Calhoun County officials was just as crucial during the process.

The next stage for ICARE is to continue searching for funds and more volunteers to finish up the final steps of the recovery. Schaarschmidt expects the holiday season will slow down the recovery process again a little, but she remains optimistic about the end of January closing date.

Once the cases are all completed, the ICARE board will decide what's next for the interfaith. "We are still looking for funding and volunteers," said Schaarschmidt.

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