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

Raelyn Means, the organization's administrator, walked through the house with Quarles, learning more about her story -- she grew up in Philadelphia, worked in healthcare much of her life, moved into this house about 15 years ago, lost one of her three sons this summer.

"It's easy to take for granted when you do have insurance and are able to recover quickly," Means said. "It's difficult when you don't have those resources and get stuck in a cycle of not being able to recover. We have some families that were still trying to recover from Hurricane Matthew and then Irma hit."

That's part of the goal of the program -- to prepare for the next storm.

"There are other programs that will do minor repairs or pathwork," Means said. "But we're really trying to focus on getting more resilient for next time as well. That's why we're doing a lot of roof replacements, making sure structures are strong ... so that hopefully if there is another storm, they won't be back in the queue for assistance."

They're repaired more than 20 homes since starting last spring. Their goal is to fix 100 homes by next summer. Their average repair has been about $14,000.

They're working with money from the Salvation Army's statewide recovery program and donations from groups such as the United Way, The Community Foundation, Florida Blue, Wells Fargo, Florida Capital Bank and PNC Bank.

As challenging as the last two years have been for Quarles, she figures it could have been worse. She talked about feeding people who are homeless. At least she had a home. With the roof repaired and the mold removed, she was happy to have her granddaughter and grandchildren under it again.

She recalled when she was growing up. Her grandmother had a big, three-story house in Philadelphia and would take in family members until they got on their feet and could afford their own places


"So that's in me," she said. "It makes me feel good."

When they gathered for the holidays this year, it was different than the last two.

They could give thanks for more than what was over their head. They could give thanks for what wasn't over their head and at their feet. Towels and buckets.

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