Volunteers Re-Build 86-Year-Old Tornado Victim's Home

For an elderly Beaufort County woman, the tornadoes of late April this year destroyed her home. She was left shaken and family members said a little divine intervention saved her life that night. Now, a group comprised of volunteers near and far want to give her back her home.

86-year-old Louise Hill said she was on the phone with her daughter, Wendy, on April 25th this year when a tornado rushed past her home.

"All of a sudden a limb came through, broke through one of the pine trees and came through my roof like an arrow and landed beside me," said Hill. "I'm here alone and scared to death to start with."

That twister left Hill's Bragaw Lane home of more than 30 years a shell of its former self.

Family members believe Hill had a guardian angel that night in the form of her late husband, Ray. His old military jacket stopped a limb from coming right at her.

"I had forgotten it was hanging in the attic," Hill recalled. "When the storm was all over with, there was a hole in the roof in the living room and this Army jacket was hanging on a rack. It had dropped through a little hole like this in the roof and was hanging there like I had hung it up to dry or something."

"I've shed enough tears. I'm not going to do it any more. I have tears of gratitude, a lot of them, because I didn't get hurt in any way," said Hill.

"I was very blessed," she continued. "Somebody up there loves me and I thank him every night."

Two months after that stormy night, people who Hill has never even met, with the United Methodist Disaster Response Team, are stepping in to make that home she once shared with her husband a reality again.

"Many clients we help, they were able to receive enough through insurance or one of the other resources that was direct assistance to them," said team member Cliff Harvell. "They were able to receive enough for us to come in and provide the free labor. But they did not receive enough to go out and hire a contractor. From the young just getting their volunteer chops to the seasoned builder, nobody has been deterred by the hot North Carolina sun. This particular rotation of volunteers are with the NC Friends Disaster Service, a group of Quakers."

Joshua Lambe, a 13-year-old volunteer said, "We came for a person who lost their house, and it's all for a good cause. Happy to do it."

"We get a better feeling than they do," said volunteer Wiley Shore. "It really does a lot of good to help somebody who can't have a place to live without some help. And it's a ministry. What we do is the same as a preacher who gets up on the pulpit -- it just affects people in a different way."

We started coverage of this story on a Monday. By Friday the same week, the home had essentially transformed.

Since Hurricane Irene, Harvell said the United Methodist Disaster Response Team and it's volunteers has repaired 625 homes and have rebuilt nearly 10 from the ground up.

Hill said she could not be more thankful for all of the hard work.

"It's hard to believe strangers- they come here and work their fingers to the bone almost and for charity," said Hill. "It's hard to believe but I see it happening every day. And I thank God every night, too. It's a beautiful world."

If you want to lend your hands to helping out with projects like these, call (888)-440-9167. All faith groups and non-faith groups are invited.

Donations are also welcome. Those can be sent to:

United Methodist Disaster Recovery
120 Satchwell Road
Grimesland, NC

The UMDR Team will often pool money to offset costs where disaster relief or insurance did not come through all the way.

WITN will be revisiting this story a few months from now when work is officially finished on Hill's home. Stay tuned.

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