Photo: Cathy Carrier’s home today, after being restored by Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: New year and new hope in a like-new home in Sulphur, Louisiana
SULPHUR, Louisiana — Cathy Carrier has had to face far more than her fair share of losses over the past three years — including the deaths of her husband, father, mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Then, after Hurricanes Laura and Delta, she was told to brace herself for another loss — the home of the past 40 years.
“I was told, ‘Just tear it down’,” Cathy says. “I was devastated because I’d just lost my husband a couple of years ago, and we moved that home there from Lake Charles and remodeled the whole thing and raised our kids there. My whole married life was in there. It was a gut punch.”
When the Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders’ Toni and Aaron Ratliff asked if they could take a look before such a drastic step, Cathy did not expect to hear anything other than “tear it down” yet again. But they insisted that the home not only could be saved but that it deserved to be saved.
“When Ms. Toni and Aaron came in and said they could redo it, I was like, ‘Nooo, you can’t’,” Cathy recalls with a chuckle. “It was like pulling teeth for them. I was thinking there’s no way anybody really does this. You see stuff like that on TV, but you never experience it. But my son helped me look up The Fuller Center online, and he said, ‘Yeah, Mom, go for it.’ So, that’s what I did.”
It was a massive project that took multiple teams of volunteers. It also was a successful project that was dedicated as a like-new home in October — in plenty of time for Cathy to get ready for the holidays.
“Every night, I thank God for The Fuller Center,” she says. “I’m so appreciative. To see it now is just amazing. I wake up every day and I’m amazed, every day.”
During the repair work, Cathy was able to watch as the home was reborn, step by step, from the FEMA camper placed in her driveway. Fortunately, the camper proved livable, though it was nothing like home.
“I was fortunate because it was a brand-new FEMA camper, and they’d fixed it up so nice,” she says. “I live by myself, so it was nice, but it was way different from being in your house. And it was in my driveway, so I was able to watch everything happening every day.”
The volunteers who came to work on her home became extended family, and she says their enthusiasm infused her like-new home with positive energy that she continues to feel inside the walls even today.
“I wish I could have every single one of them in front of me again and touch their hand and tell them thank you,” she says. “I just feel so blessed to have had them come and to be able to watch them. It was neat to watch the young kids working with smiles on their faces and neat to watch them learn from the older people. It was very heartwarming. I think about them all the time.”
The Disaster ReBuilders and those volunteers worked hard to ensure Cathy could celebrate the holidays and ring in the new year in the comfort of her own home, something that was not possible in a FEMA camper.
“It was amazing. I had my two kids and three grandchildren come the weekend before Christmas so that we could do Christmas together for the first time in my house. They spent all day with me. It was very comforting to be able to do that with them. It was really nice.”
She will see a few familiar faces next week as the Disaster ReBuilders add one final touch to the home for the new year — taking the steps from her FEMA camper and securing them to her home so that her mother will be able to safely enter the home with her walker when she comes from the nursing home for visits.
“I’m very much looking forward to 2022,” Cathy says.