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Disaster relief group helps those in need

Church members help rebuild homes devastated by earthquake.

A group of volunteers led by Spotsylvania Presbyterian Church lift an exterior wall on a new home under construction in Louisa County, Va. (Nov. 20, 2012) (Robert A. Martin/The Free Lance-Star)

BY LINDLEY ESTES

When Wanda and Franklin Johnson returned to their Louisa home Aug. 23, 2011, the structure had been knocked off its foundation, and the addition they had made to their home was severed from the building.

Franklin and Wanda Johnson of Louisa County watch a group of volunteers – led by Spotsylvania Presbyterian Church – construct a new home where their former mobile home was destroyed by the August 2011 earthquake. (Nov. 20, 2012) (Robert A. Martin/The Free Lance-Star)

They had gone to Richmond that morning and were unaware that a magnitude-5.8 earthquake had just struck the Louisa area.

Inside, Wanda said, it looked as if someone had just dumped everything out of the refrigerator. Nothing was hanging on the walls anymore. Their 22-old-son, Franklin Jr., had been thrown from his bed.

Since the quake hit, the family has lived in a rental house. But now, more than a year later, a new home is being built for them on the land where their old home was destroyed.

“We will be happy to go home,” said Wanda.

The Johnsons are one of nine families in Louisa still without a home because of the earthquake that hit Mineral two summers ago.

Resurrection Disaster Relief, a nonprofit in Beaverdam that helps victims of natural, spiritual, physical, mental or financial disaster, is building homes for those who still haven’t received help in Louisa.

One local church, Spotsylvania Presbyterian Church, has more than 40 volunteers working with Resurrection on the project. Martha Dow organized the group from Spotsylvania Presbyterian.

“I just want to help people in need,” Dow said.

The Johnsons’ three-bedroom home is being built on the same spot as the original home. Volunteers hope the Johnsons’ house will be ready for the family to move back into by Christmas.

“Our goal is to give all of these homeowners a home before Christmas,” said Pat Bromley, missions coordinator for Resurrection Disaster Relief.

She said most people don’t know there is still a need to be met in Louisa.

“It has taken a lot of time to deal with,” Bromley said.

The organization is working in partnership with the Fluvanna/Louisa Housing Foundation, which has been keeping track of these families since the earthquake.

Howard Evergreen, the foundation’s director, said that with volunteer labor each house will cost about $60,000. Without the volunteers, rebuilding would cost each family at least $75,000.

The foundation, with help from the county and state, loans the entire cost to families. It is either paid back or forgiven over 15 years.

If a family is able to pay back the loan, 25 percent of their income goes toward the loan each month. If they are not able to make the payment one or a number of months, that part of the loan is forgiven.

Evergreen said he has known about these families since the earthquake and each, for various reasons, has not been able to get help.

“For some, their houses were in bad condition before the earthquake and it made them unlivable,” he said. “These people now have the opportunity to have new, warm, dry houses.”

Jim Bolen, one of the volunteers with the group from Spotsylvania Presbyterian, has worked in construction for years but said other volunteers were from various professions.

“We all just came out to support a need,” he said.

John Kendig also is helping with the church group. He is a handyman and said working on the house is a good learning experience.

Volunteers came from as far as Kentucky and Ohio to help.

Mark Combs, the site manager at another of one of the nine locations, visited from Harden, Ky.

Lynn Jadot, also at that site, is from Woodstock, Va.

He said he’s seen people fall through disaster relief cracks before.

“I went down to Katrina [in New Orleans] four and five years after the hurricane and there was always someone to help,” Jadot said.

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976

lestes@freelancestar.com

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