Flooded residents work to make their house a home a year later

Flooded residents work to make their house a home a year later
(Source: WIS)
(Source: WIS)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - "It's going to feel like home again," predicted Tonya Etheridge, as workers loaded up supplies to re-furnish her Forest Acres home damaged in the October 2015 floods.

While the home has been restored, Etheridge still had to replace her furniture damaged by the water.

"It was like a life experience," she said, "to be appreciative of what you have, because in the blink of an eye it can be gone just like that."

Since February, flood victims have come to the Saint Vincent DePaul Society's warehouse to pick up a big package of essentials like furniture, bedding, linens, even dishes, in the Society's House in a Box program. As the one-year anniversary of the floods approached, volunteers declared a crucial time as some homes were finally repaired and ready to be occupied, but still empty of even basic furniture.

"We were sleeping on the floor, really," said Carolina Alvarez, of Columbia. "We had a comforters and things like that, because the furniture got damaged and the mattresses got damaged, so we had to throw everything out."

"We didn't realize, ourselves, when we began working here just how bad it was still a year after the flood," said Hopal Facey with the St. Vincent DePaul Society. "We have people come in, and they still need clothes. They still need a bed. They still need a dresser."

After eight months of House in a Box, volunteers said the time has come for a reminder that, while it has been a year, now is not the time for moving beyond the floods, because so many victims still need help.

"We want to bring realization out to everybody that the flood is not over," said Marilyn Gray with the St Vincent DePaul society. "The recovery is not over. We have people who need help and they will need help."

Since it began in the Midlands, the program has received sporadic funding, including a recent round of support from the Red Cross, but each Room in a Box kit costs $1,800 and all the supplies now in the warehouse are already targeted to specific families. Volunteers said, at the one-year mark, continued support had become crucial for the more than 400 people they've identified as still in need.

"Our goal is to help people get their lives back to normal," said Gray. "And we're looking at a couple of years here, I'm afraid."

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