AUSTIN, Texas — Billy Capers’ mobile home in La Grange was completely submerged by Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters in 2017.
“The first time they let us back to the house, it was just goop,” said Billy’s mother, Sharon Kramer. “You could tell it had been totally up to the ceiling.”
Capers, who is deaf, had just finished remodeling his bathroom and deck when Harvey struck.
“I had to go through kind of a grieving and saying goodbye to that house,” he said through an American Sign Language interpreter. “I was able to pick a few valuables from the rubble, but that was it.”
Having survived the Bastrop County Complex Fire in 2011, Kramer knew the importance of registering for assistance right away.
“First thing, I knew we had to sign up for FEMA,” Kramer said. “I read, and we went to every meeting.”
“Actually, FEMA approached me,” Capers said. “They came and helped me fill out the paperwork and get registered.”
With Kramer’s help, he found a vacant lot on the other side of La Grange and bought it for $15,000, part of the FEMA funds he received meant for repair or replacement of his home. Capers was planning to move another mobile home or house there. But the Fayette County Disaster Recovery Team (DRT) had other ideas.
“Within a few weeks, Joey [Melton from the DRT] called and said, ‘Billy’s getting a brand new house,’” Kramer recalled through tears. “‘The Mennonites are coming to build Billy a new house.’”
The Disaster Recovery Team is a group of local volunteers who work with FEMA and other organizations to help their community recover. FEMA provides guidance to the DRT and helps it make connections with other disaster-recovery organizations, like Mennonite Disaster Services.
A network of volunteers who provide free labor for rebuilding projects, MDS sent people from all over the country to help build Capers’ new home.
“This house is beautiful,” Capers said with a smile. “My old place was actually smaller than this, so I’ve upgraded.”
MDS was just one of many organizations that helped Capers recover, Kramer said, including churches, nonprofits and government agencies.
“Don’t wait for people to do it for you,” she said. “Find every organization that you can, participate in them, help them, and they’ll help you.
For additional information on Hurricane Harvey and Texas recovery, visit the Hurricane Harvey disaster web page at www.fema.gov/disaster/4332, Facebook at www.facebook.com/FEMAHarvey, the FEMA Region 6 Twitter account at www.twitter.com/FEMARegion6 or the Texas Division of Emergency Management website at https://tdem.texas.gov/.