U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander visited the Dry Creek community on Monday and called the ongoing efforts to rebuild homes destroyed in the Aug. 5 flood the best example of people helping people he had ever witnessed.
“Its a terrific story of Tennessee volunteers and Tennesseans helping themselves with not much government help,” Alexander said. “I’ve never seen a better example of people helping people than what’s happening right here in Washington County.”
Escorted by County Mayor Dan Eldridge and Walter Crouch, president of the nonprofit Appalachia Service Project that is leading the New Build Washington County project in Dry Creek, Alexander stopped in for a look at one of seven new homes recently put under roof by volunteers in Dry Creek. He also paid a visit at the new home of a 71-year-old community resident who was inside her mobile home when it was washed 250 yards downstream by the flood.
Crouch told Alexander volunteers completed nine new homes last fall. Seven homes are under construction and 12 additional homes will be built this spring and summer, for a total of 25 new houses at no cost to Dry Creek residents whose homes were destroyed in the flood.
Hundreds of volunteers have been involved in the project, and an additional 900 volunteers from across the country will come to work in Dry Creek before the construction is completed in August.
Eldridge said each new house features three bedrooms, an open kitchen and living room, a bath and a laundry for a total of 840 square feet of living space. He said work on the seven houses under roof began two weeks ago.
“We hope to have them all finished by the end of April,” Eldridge said.
He credited a group of 39 students who are members of the General Contractors Association from Iowa State University for framing the house going up adjacent to the damaged mobile home of Bobby and Judy Hyduc at 298 Dry Creek Road in a single week.
“They came here last week on their spring break and they worked and worked,” Judy Hyduc said. “And Cherry Grove Baptist Church too. I don’t know what the people of Dry Creek would have done without Cherry Grove Baptist Church.”
While ASP initially set out to rebuild 46 homes destroyed by the flood, Crouch said some of those homes were rental properties that cannot be replaced by the nonprofit organization. In other instances, he said homeowners did not apply for assistance from the Small Business Administration, which served as the screening agency for the project. When the project is complete, he said ASP will continue to rehabilitate homes in Dry Creek that were damaged but not destroyed by flood and to work with other homeowners who apply for help to replace their homes in the future.
Crouch said the $30,000 to $31,000 cost of each house is being provided through $16,000 in private grants from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati, $5,000 in HUD funding made available by the Tennessee Department of Housing Development and about $10,000 in private donations contributed to match a single $175,000 donation made by an anonymous ASP supporter to launch the project.
“If I could I thank all of the people who did this I would but there’s no way I can,” said 71-year-old Anna Baldwin, whose was rescued from the floodwaters after her mobile home was washed 250 yards downstream. Without insurance or money to replace her mobile home or furnishings, Baldwin applied for grant assistance and was notified soon after the flood that her new house would be one of the first to be built. When she moved in Dec. 26 she said, “They had everything set up, furniture, beds, everything, even food.”
Supporters of the New Build project include the Johnson City Home Builders Association and more than 50 individual contractors and building supply companies, numerous area banks, more than 30 individual contributors, Cherry Grove Baptist Church, Science Hill High School and civic groups including the Johnson City Rotary Club.
Alexander compared the project to “an old fashioned barn raising,” with the county, ASP, builders, student volunteers and others coming together in show of Tennessee volunteerism. “It’s a reminder to all of us to do what we can to help each other,” he said.
Eldridge said work to replace the bridge over Dry Creek on Rock House Road that was washed away in the flood is also moving forward, with the engineering completed, a grant from the state Department of Transportation approved and construction expected to begin this summer.
Crouch said ASP is continuing to raise donations for the New Build project and is still $15,000 to $20,000 short of meeting the $175,000 donation match. More information about the project and how to help may be obtained by contacting ASP at NewBuildWashingtonCounty@asphome.org or by calling the Johnson City-based home repair ministry at 854-8800.