Stories from the Recovery: It’s all about choices in home restoration

“The work you all do enabled a miracle in my family member Stella Overton’s life, renewed her spirit and helped my family give our matriarch happiness in her twilight years. Thanks to BakerRipley, Harvey wasn't an ending, it was a new beginning.” – Mike Spriggs.

Hurricane Harvey forced 92-year-old Stella Overton out of her home of 62 years when flood waters started pouring in over the window sills.

“I sat and watched the water rise so fast and I prayed to the lord not to let me drown in my house,” Stella said.

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She evacuated on a dump truck to the nearest shelter and when she arrived to her Kashmere Gardens home days later, she discovered a water line three-to-four feet high. Distraught, she turned to a close family member for help.

“Stella is the matriarch of our family and I knew I needed to take care of her,” family member Mike Spriggs said. “I heard about BakerRipley through word of mouth. I went in, got assigned to a case manager just before Christmas. An adjuster did a site visit the first part of January to assess the home damage. By the end of January, we were off to the races and purchasing building materials.”

BakerRipley’s Minor Home Restoration Program started right after Hurricane Harvey to help homeowners in Fort Bend, Harris, Montgomery and Waller Counties restore their flood-damaged homes. If homeowners didn’t receive enough money from publicly-funded organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or the Small Business Administration (SBA); or they didn’t have flood insurance, this program gave them three different choices on how they repair the home.

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“We can offer a BakerRipley contractor to repair their home, we can offer funding if they want to choose their own contractor to do work on their home and the third way is by purchasing materials if they want to do the work themselves,” BakerRipley Home Restoration Director Sommer Harrison said.

Mike chose the materials-only route and enlisted the help of a friend, who’s also a handyman, to restore Stella’s house. It took them 12 weeks, working most weeknights and eight-hour days on the weekends, to complete the needed repairs. Mike even let Stella pick cabinets, paint and tile colors during the process.

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“Choice is important,” Sommer said. “The neighbors we assist are working on their most personal possession – their home. The FEMA money isn’t always enough to fully repair a home and neither is ours, but we can step in with additional funding to give someone one more repaired room or new flooring and cabinets to get them closer to completion. We want them to be empowered to make decisions best suited for their lifestyle. It’s about having ownership of how you recover.”

No matter which route you choose, options abound. A BakerRipley adjuster does a site visit, assesses the home damage related to Harvey and estimates the cost of repairs. At that point, funding is awarded and neighbors start picking their countertop material, flooring type, cabinet design and even the hardware.

“Stella also received funding for furniture and appliances assistance through the Unmet Needs Program,” BakerRipley Disaster Case Manager Kaprice Simpson said. “After much research, her family chose to go to with refurbished appliances and they were able to purchase quite a few items. Nothing is cookie-cutter with the funding we provide – there’s always a choice in how the money is spent when they shop for items or repair their home.”

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Thanks to the agency’s home restoration options, Mike customized the home to fit Stella’s needs. For instance, he got to choose a short nap on the carpet so Stella doesn’t trip and fall. He kept the restored home a surprise and didn’t let her see it until she moved back in at the end of April.

“When I walked through the door, I couldn’t believe it,” Stella said. I’d never seen it that nice. I cried.”

Stella is now planning on having her 93rd birthday party at the home. She wants to invite friends and family over to see what a beautiful job Mike did on the restoration with the help of BakerRipley.