Habitat helping flooded homeowners

Monday, July 5, 2010 at 11:45pm

It’s probably not a bad deal, all things considered.

Ronnie and Caryn Hill — he a police officer, she a stay-at-home mom who raised four children — lost much of the first floor of the Hermitage house they’ve occupied for two decades to May’s historic flood.

Not only are they getting repaired — free of charge — everything that the 6 inches of water ruined, they’ll also have a French drain installed outside the house to, the theory goes, avoid such flooding in the future.

The Hill house, where work began last week and is expected to stretch through mid-July, is the first repair project in a new initiative by the Nashville Area Habitat for Humanity aimed at serving immediate needs for victims of such disasters as floods.

“[It shows] the enormous need that we have,” Eric Helm, manager of Habitat’s ReConstruct program, which focuses on rebuilding neighborhoods through rehabs of foreclosed homes and other hard-timer properties, said. “Our original intention is to raise money [so] the homeowner doesn’t have to pay for it.”

Habitat is evaluating 40 families who’ve so far applied for help recovering from flooding, and three rehab projects are under way, according to CEO Chris McCarthy.

“Habitat, as a community service nonprofit organization, I believe has the responsibility to step out and help as many people as we can who are hurting from the flooding,” she said, adding that they’ve gotten hundreds of calls since the flood. “With anything bad that happens, something good can come of it.”

Other than the flood relief houses, ReConstruct crews are working on a historic house on Meridian Street in East Nashville. Habitat is partnering with the Metro housing agency on the project. But the relief efforts swiftly took priority.

“We are just so happy that we could reach out and help families like the Hills,” said Steve Harding, executive vice president of the Tennessee Association of REALTORS, a partner in the new initiative. “ …It’s heartbreaking to see the devastation that the floods brought to so many families in Nashville, and we want to be part of the solution.”