Editor’s note: One year after hurricanes Maria and Irma hit the U.S. Virgin Islands, many residents are still struggling. Here we share two of the many stories of the continuing Lutheran recovery efforts. Please consider donating to Lutheran Disaster Response to bring hope and healing to those affected by this disaster.

Dennis, a 72-year-old retired Marine, lives in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, where Hurricane Maria struck last August, causing widespread destruction, power outages and loss of cell phone reception and access to resources. The morning after the hurricane, Dennis went to check on his house.

“When I looked up, half the roof was gone,” Dennis said. “And then the rains started to fall. For weeks.” Because of the holes in Dennis’ roof, the interior of his home had significant water damage.

Once he moved back into his home after staying with relatives, Dennis met an employee of the Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands (LSSVI) disaster response team. He told them about the damage to his home, and soon after, they came for a visit.

“I was hoping to get help from FEMA. I wasn’t expecting the Lutherans,” Dennis said.

Now, Dennis is getting help to rebuild his home and his life thanks to Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) support.

“The house isn’t done, but how it looks now is beyond my wildest expectations. I can’t imagine what it will look like when its finished,” he said. “I appreciate what you all have done for me. I give thanks to God for sending you all here.”

“Mold Busters” help repair damaged home 

Barbara, of St. Croix, survived the hurricane, but part of her roof blew off, and without shutters, her windows shattered. With limited resources and battling red tape, she struggled to get assistance to repair her house. Over several months, mold grew inside her house, after which relief agencies would not come to help because the mold posed a threat to the health of their workers.

Then Barbara contacted LSSVI, and before long, she was connected with four volunteers who call themselves the Mold Busters. This all-female volunteer group was outfitted with protective gear from LSSVI (supported by gifts to LDR), and then spent a week and a half removing all the mold from Barbara’s house. Now she is working to make her home livable again.

“The strength and determination they had gave me courage and strength to deal with the situation,” Barbara said. “I found I was capable through them of doing more than I thought I could.”

Alex Baird
Alex Baird is ELCA senior manager for communications and marketing.

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