Two years after Irma, reasons to give thanks: A roof over her head, no buckets at her feet

Mark Woods, The Florida Times-Union on

Published in Weather News

Her home, built in 1954, is a few blocks southwest of Edward Waters College, in the College Gardens neighborhood, where the median home value is under $50,000. The house already had a leaky roof before September 2017. Then Irma tore its way through Florida.

One of her granddaughters had fled Tampa with her family, thinking they were getting out of the storm's path -- only to see it hit Jacksonville.

"We sat here watching all the trees bending and swaying," she said, looking out the windows to her backyard.

When the storm passed, the roof was in even worse shape.

"Animals were coming in," she said. "Possums and rats."

She and family members did what they could to plug some holes. But without insurance, they only could do so much. And at age 77, she's on a small fixed income, not much more than the $9,000 in necessary repairs.


So two years later, there she was, still using buckets and towels.

As she spoke, though, the sound of footsteps could be heard overhead. Workers were tearing off the old roof, beginning the process of putting on a new one.

After that, the mold was taken care of, the work done before Thanksgiving, giving her reason to give thanks this holiday season for something she certainly doesn't take for granted. A roof over her head. A roof over the heads of her extended family -- including a granddaughter who's working on a cosmetology degree, and a grandson who is attending Florida State College at Jacksonville.

Her repairs are an example of the work being done by the Northeast Florida Long Term Recovery Organization. Created in December 2018, it's a collaborative network of governmental, business, faith-based and nonprofit organizations.


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