Doug Wilson has been through a lot in the last few months, but things came full circle Tuesday when he received keys to his new house and saw the inside for the first time.
In a little more than three months, Wilson, of 283 Dry Creek Road, went from living in his family’s homestead — the house where he and his dozen siblings were born — to homeless when a flood washed the house into the road and back around to being a homeowner.
It didn’t come without a lot of volunteer work and donated materials so that Wilson didn’t have to contribute a single penny to the construction, furnishings or groceries in the cupboards and refrigerator.
“It’s real nice,” Wilson — a man of few words — said. He said he’s thankful for everyone who helped get him back into a house.
The three bedrooms, living room, kitchen, bath and laundry room were fully furnished and there were even several photos that were salvaged from Wilson’s farmhouse that was swept off its foundation and into the road when the flood happened Aug. 5.
Along with the local government leaders and contractors overseeing the ongoing Dry Creek projects — about seven houses in some stage of construction — was a group of 38 Iowa State University construction engineer students.
The group chose Appalachian Service Project as their Thanksgiving break work project.
Nick Donlin, 20, of Ames, Iowa, said the students didn’t know about the devastation that occurred in Washington County until they arrived and saw photos in a presentation about it.
The group was divided into three work teams and assigned to different houses. In the three and a half days in the Dry Creek community, the teams “framed and dried in three houses,” said Ethan Brown, one of Donlin’s classmates.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” to see the difference the group made in Washington County residents’ lives.
Both young men said the experience gives them a deeper appreciation for what they have back home in Iowa.
Another ISU student, Andy Hodge, said trips like this make friendships deeper, and give students a better approach to going out into the world after graduation.
“Your relationships always grow. It’s a different experience than you get in the classroom for sure. It just makes you a more well-rounded person. You’re not just working for a paycheck, you’re out here putting someone under a roof when they’ve lost everything.”
ISU has also already committed to coming back to Washington County and Dry Creek for their spring break trip.
“Our experience here has been really, really great, so why not come back? It seems they’ve got a lot more work for us to do.”
And indeed, that’s true, according to ASP President Wayne Couch and Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge.
Couch said 25 to 30 homes will be built from the ground up in the Dry Creek recovery. And homeowners won’t have to pay for their new homes either because of mostly private grant funding.
That funding avenue became necessary after the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied federal aid because the damage didn’t meet the $8 million threshold.
A community church, Cherry Grove Baptist Church, hosted the ISU students.
“Everybody’s as nice as they can be. Over at the church ... they made it really easy on what we were doing. Dinner was ready (after work) and there were hot showers,” Brown said.
Even as the ISU students started their 15-hour drive home, work continued on several other homes that were destroyed in the Aug. 5 flood.
Work also started Tuesday on the creek remediation project that is supposed to repair damage to Dry Creek in hopes it won’t flood the area like the August flood again.