By Laura Halleman
When the flooding came following Hurricane Harvey, Miss Olivia knew she had to get all her children, including her disabled daughter, Diana, to safety. They were evacuated by boat from their community in Houston and taken to safety in a shelter.
What waited for them upon their return was a home filled with black mold and personal items, such as photo albums, strewn about in the flood water, only to have to be tossed to the curbside for debris pickup.
All Hands volunteers knew the urgency of gutting and mucking Miss Olivia’s home prior to going in. Her daughter, Diana, has Rett Syndrome, a rare neurological and movement disorder that primarily affects females. Diana is wheelchair bound and has gone through over 10 spinal surgeries. She also eats from a feeding tube and requires breathing treatments several times a day. Their home was a priority for All Hands.
Led by team leader, Colette, volunteers went into the home, where black mold was already growing up the walls and behind the bathroom and kitchen cabinets. They started with Diana’s room and bathroom first, where they knocked out drywall, bundled up wet insulation and took apart her bathroom, piece by piece, taking it to the mounting pile of debris outside.
The sooner they finished, the sooner Miss Olivia and her children could begin the rebuilding process. They were staying at a hotel an hour away in Galveston. This made it difficult on the entire family, but to keep some sense of normalcy Miss Olivia would drive back to their home each morning to ensure Diana was picked up by her school bus to go to school. It was a hardship Diana never complained about, but Miss Olivia felt it was taking its toll.
After three days, the mucking and gutting of their home was completed by All Hands volunteers. Mold sanitation was a priority and more volunteers came in to complete that process so the rebuilding process could begin.
On the last day of gutting Miss Olivia’s home, the volunteers watched as Diana was dropped off at the bus stop and they were eager to finally meet her. Smiles and tears were not in short supply. Soon, Diana and her family could move back home again.