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Flood uproots six with special needs

By Jessica Connor

COLUMBIA — Residents of an independent living ministry for special needs adults are scrambling this month after heavy rain and floods forced them from the place they call home.

Floodwaters Sept. 25 turned the Columbia Builders Care Home, run by Aldersgate Special Needs Ministry, into a soggy, sopping mess. The flood “ which occurred after five days of heavy rain “ soaked furniture, carpeting and kitchen cabinetry and caused more than $20,000 in damage, said Betty Moss McGuirt, chair of the ministry.

The home, located near Epworth Children s Home off Millwood Avenue in Columbia, is not in a flood plain, so the ministry did not have flood insurance.

As of the Advocate s press time, the residents “ six women ages 25 to 45 with varying degrees of mild to moderate intellectual disabilities “ had just moved back into their home.

It is sad for them and all of us,  McGuirt said. We worked so hard to get this ministry in place and have this home for these girls. It is a devastating thing to be displaced for any reason, especially something like this, where your spot “ your room and your things “ are in jeopardy because of this flood. 

The house weathered a couple of inches of standing water, said Tiffany Collins, administrator and program director for Aldersgate Columbia. A ministry of the S.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church, Aldersgate also has a house for special needs men in Orangeburg.

Collins said water came in through the doors and through bathroom drains in spite of several industrial drains installed outside the house.

The rains just came so fast,  said Tammy Fulmer, Aldersgate board member. When we got there, there were towels everywhere. The cement was filled with mud, and Tiffany s car even flooded. 

Residents left the house the evening of Sept. 25 to stay with their individual families, most of whom live locally. Cleanup crews immediately went to work mucking out the house and replacing Sheetrock, insulation, carpet, tile and cabinets.

The day the Advocate visited the flood-stricken home, the typical high-energy hustle and bustle of the household was gone, temporarily replaced by the busy hammering of crews working furiously to meet S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control regulations so the women could move back in.

It s so quiet without them,  Collins lamented, shaking her head. Normally it s full of life, like a family. We miss them. 

The feeling is mutual. Speaking to the Advocate before they were able to move back in, residents said they miss everything about their Aldersgate home “ their friends, the staff, their personalized rooms.

I miss the girls,  said resident Callie Miley, who popped by with her mother to pick up some Clemson gear for the game that weekend.

She s dying to get back,  her mother, Aldersgate board member Caroline Stephenson, agreed. She misses the routine, the camaraderie, the close circle of friends she has here. Having this house and a peer group around her is one of the happiest things to happen to her. 

Resident Margaret Brabham said being out of the house and off her routine has been difficult for her. She also misses the independence she has at the house, as well as the group activities they do, from movie night to Zumba to computer classes.

I m stressed out, I feel not myself, I m not ˜with it,  said Brabham, who lives with Down syndrome and considers the Aldersgate home a help to her on many levels. It s been hard for me. I really miss my friends and the staff. 

McGuirt said Aldersgate needs prayers from everyone in the conference, as well as donations to help raise the more than $20,000 needed for repairs. While the residents parents and the Aldesgate board have been generous, much more is needed.

Still, McGuirt and other board members are relieved the situation wasn t worse “ the home will be livable soon, and they are working to develop a better action plan in case of future flood issues.

It is something that can be fixed, not impossible,  McGuirt said. We re just thankful nobody was hurt and we can take care of the property damage. We also have a good feeling about the way people have responded and the way the girls and the families have been understanding about what s happened. 

Donations to Aldersgate to help with the flooding repairs should be sent through the local church treasurer on the church remittance report, or send a check payable to Aldersgate Special Needs Ministry to Aldersgate, 4908 Colonial Drive, Columbia, SC 29203

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