By Tina V. Bryson
And then there was light. For Brenda and her granddaughter, they had no electricity or running water in their bathroom since the floods of July 2022. But through strategic partnerships and committed volunteers, Christian Appalachian Project (CAP) was able to help this family that had fallen through the cracks.
“I promised him I’d take care of her,” said Brenda, who is raising her teenage granddaughter after her son passed away from cancer.
The night of the flood they were awakened at 1 a.m. and found water rising toward their home from the creek bed. Soon, the water rushed under her home and demolished everything in its path including her electricity and water in the entire home for five weeks. After water was restored, debris in the lines destroyed her hot water heater, as well as her washer and dryer.
Brenda had been a counselor and a case manager at a maximum-security women’s prison for more than 20 years. She had a double major in college in social work and criminology so that she could help people in the community struggling with the impacts of substance abuse. “I was no different than those prisoners except I chose a different path,” she said. “It made me realize how much I took for granted. It completely changed me.”
Brenda continued, wiping tears from her eyes, “Asking you all for help was hard for me. Because I sent people to you all, but now I’m on the other side of the fence. It’s hard to ask for help when you have helped so many people in your own life.”
Through the generous support of donors nationwide, CAP committed to helping 100 families get back into homes that were safe, warm, and dry. CAP is partnering with Knott County Long-Term Recovery to assist families like Brenda’s that were still on their waiting list. Iowa Amish volunteers provided the labor and repaired Brenda’s home in just three days marking the 100th home completed during CAP’s disaster response. CAP will be working with Knott County to assist with an additional 10 homes that still need repairs.
Scott Dale, a CAP Home Repair crew leader, oversaw the replacement of floor joists, subfloor, and water heater. In addition, volunteers built a wheelchair accessible ramp to help Brenda who suffered debilitating injuries following a near fatal car accident. They also patched her roof, replaced the floorboards on the back porch, and repaired the back steps which had crumbled under floodwaters.
“It felt good to be able to help,” Dale said. “It’s simple things that we take for granted like being able to wash your hands or your face in the bathroom sink or flipping the switch and you have lights. Makes you more grateful.”
Dale, whose grandparents helped raise him, felt a special connection to Brenda and her family. “It hit home for me. My grandparents took care of me. I am grateful to be able to help someone like Brenda who is talking care of her granddaughter.”
Brenda closed, “I told myself when I lost my son that there is nothing in this house that cannot be bought back, but I can’t bring him back. So, it has changed how I look at things. This house, my Daddy built. And watching them repair it has been hard for me because they are taking up the last thing I have that’s his. I can buy another house, but I can’t buy back Daddy’s house. But I am very grateful for the help.”