by Bonny Van
On Tuesday, March 8, 2016, the skies opened up on North Louisiana.¬† ‚ÄúIt rained a long time,‚ÄĚ says 89-year-old Shreveport resident Lizzie Harris. ‚ÄúAnd, I heard it in my back bedroom when all the sheet rock had come down.‚ÄĚ That‚Äôs when she knew her aging roof was no match for the deluge.
By the weekend, the National Weather Service in Shreveport reported over 20 inches of rain in some areas.
‚ÄúIt started to leak in the bedroom and in the kitchen and then in another bedroom,‚ÄĚ Harris says. ‚ÄúEvery time it rained, I put out buckets and pans to catch the water.‚ÄĚ
Harris and her husband moved into her small bungalow when it was built in 1959. ‚ÄúWe had a new roof put on in 1983, but after my husband passed, I couldn‚Äôt afford a new one.‚ÄĚ
Like many residents who suffered damages from the flooding, Mrs. Harris qualified for disaster assistance from FEMA.¬† Jean Woods, Disaster Case Manager for St. Vincent de Paul, was assigned Mrs. Harris‚Äô case. ‚ÄúThe wind and rain had caused a lot of damage to the shingles on her roof,‚ÄĚ says Woods.
Harris outside her home
So, Woods began calling roofers to get a bid on the work. ‚ÄúThe cost, with labor and materials, was $3,600 and it was more money than they could come up with,‚ÄĚ says Jay Murrell, owner of Pintail Roofing in Shreveport.¬† ‚ÄúSo, I sent two workers to lay tarps on the roof to keep the rain out, but that only lasted for two-and-a-half months.‚ÄĚ¬† But, Murrell could not stop thinking about Mrs. Harris and her situation.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve been broke before and had a leaky roof.¬† Every time it rained I was scared, so I empathized with her,‚ÄĚ says Murrell.¬† ‚ÄúSometimes, the Holy Spirit comes to me in different places and I just felt moved to do something for Mrs. Harris.‚ÄĚ
Murrell contacted a fellow roofer, who was able to get the shingles donated.¬† Together, they shared the cost of labor and other materials to get the job done.¬†¬† ‚ÄúNow, Mrs. Harris has the best roof in the neighborhood!‚ÄĚ¬† However, there was still more work to be done.
‚ÄúWhen Jay repaired the roof, we went into the backyard to take pictures and saw a tree had fallen in the yard,‚ÄĚ says Woods.¬† That‚Äôs when the wrestling team from Loyola College Prep jumped in to help.
The team practices at St. Catherine Community Center, where the office of the SVDP Disaster Services Division is located.¬† I asked Ms. Woods if we could help them in any way so she told us about Mrs. Harris,‚ÄĚ says Loyola wrestling coach Darrick Roberson.¬† ‚ÄúWherever we can get involved in the community, we do.‚ÄĚ
It took one Saturday afternoon for students Reese Ebarb, Eli Poole, Alan Hedrick and Jonathan Durel and Coach Roberson to cut up the tree and remove other debris from the backyard. ‚ÄúThere were also leaves piling up, so the kids raked and bagged up the leaves and hauled it out,‚ÄĚ says Roberson.
Roofer Jay Murrell volunteered his services to give Mrs. Harris a new roof.
Still, the work continues for Mrs. Harris.¬† ‚ÄúI just helped her fill out an application with FEMA to get funds to repair a leak under her house,‚ÄĚ says Woods.¬† ‚ÄúShe needs foundation work and more work inside to clean up the damage from the flooding.‚ÄĚ
For many residents, the aftermath and the cleanup of the March 2016 flood has been a life changing experience; and, for some, in very unexpected ways.¬† Coach Darrick Roberson also plans to continue his team building with more community service projects.¬† ‚ÄúThey loved it!¬† We‚Äôll definitely do more activities like that in the future.¬† And, we‚Äôll try to open it up to the rest of the school to get others involved.‚ÄĚ
For Jay Murrell, communication is underway with area roofers and contractors to help other needy residents through SVDP‚Äôs Disaster Relief Program.¬† ‚ÄúI hope to work on other projects like this one. You know, from a seed a giant oak will grow,‚ÄĚ said Murrell.¬† ‚ÄúThere are a lot of needs out there.¬† Jesus said, ‚ÄėLove your neighbor as yourself.‚Äô¬† And, he really means that.‚ÄĚ