Local, national partnership to help rebuild Midlands homes damaged by floods

If teamwork makes the dream work, then some dreams are coming true for homeowners struggling to rebuild after the floods in Richland and Lexington counties.

Hundreds of volunteers will work to rebuild at least 10 flood-damaged homes over three days at the end of December thanks to a partnership between Columbia-based Home Works of America and national disaster relief charity St. Bernard Project, with funding by United Way of the Midlands, the Michael J. Mungo Foundation and more than half a dozen local supporters.

The project, dubbed ReBuild Together, will help lay the groundwork for continuing rebuilding and recovery efforts for homeowners who have fallen through assistance gaps following the Oct. 4 floods that damaged hundreds of homes in the Midlands alone.

“We need to get in here and start fixing people’s houses as soon as possible,” said Stewart Mungo, chairman of the Michael J. Mungo Foundation. “There are poor people and people who aren’t wealthy but are underinsured or not insured that just needed help, they needed a hand. ... It’s our problem. It’s our neighbors. It’s our community.”

United Way and the Mungo Foundation each donated $100,000 to the ReBuild Together project and continuing building efforts, along with some $111,000 from additional supporters.

St. Bernard Project is a national relief organization that began with recovery efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The organization offers assistance to homeowners who own only one home and – because they may be underinsured, have limited income, received inadequate assistance from federal or other sources, or for other reasons – can’t afford to hire market-rate contractors.

With the work of trained supervisors and volunteers, many of them from AmeriCorps, St. Bernard Project is able to help rebuild disaster-stricken homes at 20-40 percent below market-rate costs, said Reese May, the organization’s national disaster recovery director.

St. Bernard Project already has begun helping some Midlands homeowners with their recovery projects, including laying tile in Bill and Linda Markham’s home in Lexington County’s Pine Glen subdivision.

“I’d probably still be living at my friends’ house, and my house would still be sitting there, nothing but a skeleton” without the help of St. Bernard Project and other friends and volunteers from the community, Bill Markham said. Rebuilding their home, “emotionally, it’s been an ordeal that two 70-year-old people shouldn’t have to go through.”

In partnering with Home Works for ReBuild Together, St. Bernard Project is able not only to help locals in their rebuilding processes, but to pass along its disaster recovery expertise for local organizations to continue longterm relief efforts on their own.

ReBuild Together will take place Dec. 28-30. Home Works and St. Bernard Project have filled about two-thirds of the available 400 volunteer slots for the three-day project that will touch at least 10 homes across various flood-hit communities in Richland and Lexington counties.

To volunteer for ReBuild Together, sign up online at homeworksofamerica.org under the “Register Now” link on the homepage. To volunteer for other St. Bernard Project efforts in the area, email SouthCarolinaRecovery@stbernardproject.org or call (803) 281-2744.

For information about qualifying for home construction assistance from St. Bernard Project, call (803) 281-2744.

Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.