GREGORY – Last week, two Coastal Bend families celebrated a gift years in the making.

A family in Gregory and another in Woodsboro moved into their brand new, rebuilt homes that were damaged in Hurricane Harvey.

United Methodist Committee on Relief – Rio Texas Conference (UMCOR), Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group (CBDRG), Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity, Samaritan’s Purse and Cheniere Energy all played a part in making the family’s dream become a reality. 

Both families celebrated with home dedication ceremonies where CBDRG and UMCOR presented keys to their new owners.

The first home dedication ceremony, held in Gregory, was for Delia Rios. Rios was a survivor of Hurricane Celia in 1970 and has lived in the area all her life.

Her eldest child was nine years old when the family moved into the original house, and her other two children were born while living there. Before Rios and her family made their house a home, it was known as the building for the telephone company; there was even a movie shot in there.

When Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Rios was staying with her daughter in Corpus Christi. The storm destroyed her beloved home, and she remained living with her daughter until last week, when she received the keys for her newly-built home. 

“I want to thank everybody from the bottom of my heart,” Rios said. “I’ve lived here for more than 38 years. I’ve been in this community for a long time. I’ve got a lot of friends here, and I’m very happy to be back and close to my mom.”

Rios’ home was funded through a grant CBDRG received from Cheniere Energy, and the majority of the construction was performed by MDS volunteers. The interior of the home was completed by various volunteer groups including five faith-based groups and volunteers from Gulf Coast Growth Ventures.

Rios’ case was managed by UMCOR and Samaritan’s Purse provided some furniture for the new home. It is the seventh home CBDRG and their partners have completed in Gregory along with 11 home repair projects.

Down the highway a few miles in Woodsboro,  Paulina Wilson, her daughter Brenda Holst, and her two grandchildren, Alyssa and Allen, received the keys to their home presented by Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity.

CBDRG was able to provide funding for the home through their partnership with Samaritan’s Purse and UMCOR provided case management. MDS and Christian Public Service jointly worked on construction of the home and local church volunteers completed the interior.

When Harvey struck, Wilson, Holst and her children left Woodsboro to stay with her sister in Refugio, fearing that her childhood home wouldn’t survive the hurricane.

When the family returned to Woodsboro, it was evident that they would no longer be able to live in their existing home. Their case manager, Zelina Rittiman, met the family in January of 2018 and did everything she could to make sure they would get back to a safe, secure and sanitary home.

“When I met them, it was really difficult to hear their story,” Rittiman said. “They had lived here all their lives, and they were watching their house fall to pieces in front of them.

“I was motivated and passionate about helping them. After many obstacles here we are today. It’s a true blessing and honor to stand on these steps today and to walk through their doorway and be part of the journey with them.”

These two homes represent the 34th and 35th homes rebuilt by CBDRG and their partners since Hurricane Harvey.

“Each of these homes are the result of successful collaboration and finding one common objective, help families recover from Hurricane Harvey,” Executive Director of CBDRG Warren Phipps said. “We here to help people in our community, and we couldn’t do this without any of our partnerships.”

CBDRG, in partnership with several other non-profits, have completed 156 major home reconstruction projects so far and is continuing to work on another 50 ongoing projects.

All of this was possible due to the donors and volunteers. CBDRG continues to seek volunteers who range from skilled laborers to general help. To learn more about the CBDRG and to fill open volunteer positions, visit  coastalbenddrg.org/volunteer.

The CBDRG is a volunteer-based coalition created to address the unmet needs of Coastal Bend area residents affected by disaster. CBDRG is a state/FEMA recognized long-term recovery organization and is registered with Texas as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation as authorized by the IRS.

Established in 2015, CBDRG was formed to continuously coordinate long-term disaster recovery within the 11-county region of the Texas Coastal Bend including Aransas, Bee, Brooks, Duval, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Live Oak, Nueces, San Patricio and Refugio counties for current and future disasters.