February 11, 2019 | Stephen Smith, Rockport Pilot
Through the combined efforts of the Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group (CBDRG), Mennonite Disaster Services – Storm Aide (MDS), Rockport Fulton Chamber Foundation, and the Coastal Bend Food Bank; Brianna Dodgen, along with her fiancé Aaron Walpole and their three daughters, Cailynn, Ashlynn, and Madilynn O’ Connor, were presented the keys to a brand new home Thursday, Jan. 30.
Dodgen, Walpole, and their three daughters stayed at a shelter and motels in Laredo while Hurricane Harvey made landfall.
A week later, they came back to Rockport. Harvey had ripped away the walls of three bedrooms. The property was full of debris, and there were areas of the roof completely missing.
The one livable room in the house left for the family of five was the living room, in which they lived in for more than a year. They were thankful to still have a working bathroom.
“It was hard, all five of us living in a damaged home,” said Dodgen. “To walk in, see that every day and think this is all we have, it was tough.”
Dodgen was able to get in touch with the CBDRG about three months into living in their damaged home. The CBDRG said because the house was over 50% damaged, they would build the family a brand new home.
After waiting a while for red tape and paperwork to clear during the process, the CBDRG recruited the help of the MDS and quickly got to work on building the new home. It was built right next door to the old home.
“It was an amazing experience watching the Mennonites build our home from the ground up,” said Dodgen.
In the less than three months time that it took for the home to be built, the family was eager to finally be moving into a new home.
“Those last couple of months was hardest on the girls,” said Dodgen. “Not having our own personal space, seeing the house being built and not being able to live in it, it was hard (on all of us),”
With the condition of their old home deteriorating by the day, the family was granted permission to move into the new home a week before the ribbon cutting ceremony.
The girls were ecstatic to finally move out of the old home.
“Seeing their faces light up … Ashlynn screamed and began to jump up and down. All I could do was laugh and smile. I couldn’t tell her not to scream because I was excited too,” said Dodgen. “That day, was just a great day.”
Zavala’s Furniture in Rockport donated most of the furniture for the home and through a grant from the Save The Children fund, the family was able to purchase desks and bedding for the girls’ rooms.
CBDRG, in partnership with several other non-profits, have completed 63 major home reconstruction projects thus far and is continuing to work on another 104 on-going projects. All of this is possible due to the generous donors and hardworking 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 www.coastalbenddrg.org/volunteer.