By Jessica Brodie
HELENA ISLAND—After Hurricane Matthew slammed her community and ruined her roof last fall, Cheryl Smith didn’t know how she’d handle repairs.
A bus driver, Smith lived alone in her Lowcountry mobile home, and between the drenched roof and the fast-growing mold, she had nowhere to turn.
“Financially I wasn’t there, insurance wasn’t in place—I just didn’t know how it was going to get done,” Smith said.
But thanks to a long-term disaster recovery team through the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, Smith is not only back in her home with a brand-new roof, but three of her neighbors got their homes repaired, too.
“Angels showed up at my house,” Smith said through tears as she recounted how her despair become hope and gratitude after the team spent a week in her community doing the work.
“I have my home back,” Smith said.
Of four homes the disaster recovery team was able to repair in St. Helena Island this summer, three of the homes needed new roofs, so it was a specialized job that required a special kind of labor crew, said Marvin Horton, construction manager. Luckily, Horton said, a team of Tennessee and Georgia volunteers with roofing skills was interested in lending a hand.
“It’s hard to find teams to come in and do roofs, so when we have so many with that skill level, we try to get them to do as many as possible,” Horton said. “I was impressed with the ability of that group to do that much work in that amount of time.”
Horton said the deluge of hurricane-induced rain had taken its toll on the houses, some of which were already in less-than-perfect condition.
“When you have an inch of rain, you get a little leak, but when you have 12 to 20 inches of rain, it’s different; you don’t have recovery time,” Horton said. “Water tears down the ceiling. It gets so soaked it doesn’t dry out, and then it starts molding.”
That’s what happened with Smith; the mold infestation made her so sick that she had to move in with her mother. She’s back home now thanks to the disaster recovery team and a good dehumidifier.
Smith said her UMCSC disaster case manager, Kathleen McLean-Titus, was the first angel she encountered.
“Between Kathleen and the group, I met a total of about 45 angels this summer,” Smith said. “I just want to say thank you.”
McLean-Titus said she developed a heart for Smith, and knowing the woman is able to enjoy her home again makes her feel great. She said it was a humbling and gratifying feeling to know their work helped show the love of God to a group of people in dire need.
“When she said angels showed up at my house, (it underscored that) we’re really doing God’s work,” McLean-Titus said.
Ward Smith, conference director of recovery ministries, said the need is still strong for other teams and individuals to volunteer their help.
“There’s hundreds of families waiting for help,” he said, encouraging people to get involved.