(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
The storms that dumped 20 inches of rain in Cape Girardeau last April were more than Addie Marie Walker's roof could take.
More than a year later, she was living in a house with a leaky roof, having been rejected by every agency she'd turned to for help.
After a year of worrying constantly about what will happen if it snows or rains, this week a group of volunteers from Chicago are seeing to it Walker's home stays dry.
Her home is one of hundreds of projects to be completed over the next year coordinated through the Missouri Disaster Case Management Program and Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri.
"I had no idea this type of help was out there," Walker said. "I am floored by their generosity."
The group of college students and recent graduates scraping shingles off her roof Monday were an answer to her prayers, she said.
Members of St. George Catholic Church in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park, Ill., are led by former carpenter Steve Fancsali, who taught them his trade. The group spent the past five years taking mission trips to New Orleans to help with Hurricane Katrina recovery.
Earlier this year they repaired several flood-damaged homes in Canalou, Mo.
Walker's homeowners insurance gave her less than $500 to repair her roof, which was only enough to patch some of the damage, she said.
Even though Cape Girardeau County received a federal disaster declaration after spring 2011 storms and flooding, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Walker didn't qualify for assistance because she had homeowners insurance.
She applied for a Small Business Administration low-interest disaster loan but was turned down.
The call she got from Catholic Charities changed everything, she said.
The Missouri Disaster Case Management Program, funded by a $5.3 million FEMA grant for the next year, offers long-term disaster recovery assistance to those who still have unmet needs from the spring 2011 storms and flooding.
Lutheran Family and Children's Services of Missouri in St. Louis is the management agency for the program and contracted with four other provider agencies, including Catholic Charities, to deliver disaster case management services to the 25 disaster-affected counties. Anyone who was affected by last spring's storms and flooding who resides in these counties may be eligible for assistance from Catholic Charities.
Catholic Charities will receive $461,420 to provide case management for disaster victims in the Southeast Missouri counties of St. Francois, Reynolds, Carter, Ripley, Wayne, Butler, Bollinger, Stoddard, Dunklin, Pemiscot, New Madrid, Cape Girardeau, Scott, and Mississippi.
Across Missouri, 6,445 individual applications were accepted for FEMA assistance totaling $38.8 million after tornadoes, storms and flooding last spring.
The first step was to call everyone who registered for FEMA help last year and assess what their current needs were, said Kyle Schott, regional director of Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri.
The FEMA grant allowed his agency to hire five caseworkers and a supervisor for the next year to assist those still struggling.
"FEMA never gives you enough money. Insurance never gives you enough money. They really have nowhere to turn if they're living paycheck to paycheck," Schott said.
In Cape Girardeau County, Catholic Charities has already identified 40 homes that have damage from last year's severe weather, he said. In Scott County, there are also about 40 projects and hundreds across all of Southeast Missouri.
The needs vary from flooded basements that need to be cleaned and sprayed for mold to mobile home floors warped by floodwaters.
In the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway, where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used explosives to intentionally breach the levee to alleviate flooding elsewhere, a number of homes were damaged from the force of the blast, Schott said.
Some homes have foundation damage, cracked walls and cracked trusses in their roofs, he said. Some families' wells were unsettled during the blast, leaving them without drinking water.
FEMA won't assist with these repairs because they're not the result of flooding, he said.
While the grant covers the cost of the case management services, Catholic Charities is depending on groups of volunteer labor, like the group from St. George, to come this summer and do many of the projects its clients need. The cost of materials needed for these repairs has been provided by other grants and donations from faith-based groups and Catholic Charities itself, Schott said.
Area churches and the Southeast Missouri chapter of the American Red Cross are helping keep the volunteers housed and fed as they continue to work on three projects in Cape Girardeau this week. The crew is staying in Towers North, thanks to cooperation from Southeast Missouri State University, Schott said.
Stoddard St., Cape Girardeau, MO