Photo: Elijah, 7, and Micah, 4, pictured with their new dog Oreo on Thursday night in front of the Christmas tree they insisted upon decorating. The boys were not able to have a dog during the three years the family lived with their grandmother after Hurricane Florence.
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: The Nolans — A homecoming three years in the making after Hurricane Florence
BAYBORO, N.C. — The images from tornado-ravaged towns in Kentucky are gut-wrenching for anyone to see, but Shae Nolan says they are particularly heartbreaking for her family because they know what it’s like for a disaster to come in and completely disrupt your life.
Shae and husband Angelo were doing just fine with their son Elijah in their comfortable home back in 2018 when Hurricane Florence roared ashore, doing extensive damage to their roof and other parts of their home. For three years, they lived with her grandmother. And for nearly three years they could not find anyone to help them repair their home.
“Honestly, we didn’t think that it would happen,” Shae says. “We did not foresee it ever coming to pass and were starting to look at other routes. We were considering just tearing it down and getting a mobile home or trailer because there was just no help.”
Then they heard from The Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders.
“It seemed too good to be true,” Shae recalls. “When they initially called me they just said, ‘Hey, we’d like to come take a look at your roof. We wanna fix your roof.’ And I said, ‘Awesome.’ I knew that we couldn’t get anything done until we fixed the roof. I was happy and grateful and in shock. Then I felt relief that it was finally happening. I had no clue it would what it is now and that they’d do as much as they’ve done.”
After fixing the roof, Disaster ReBuilders volunteers from across the country helped the family complete various projects including window and door replacements, new flooring, a bathroom renovation, new kitchen cabinets, repainting of the entire home, and more.
“They also found a grant that gave us central heat and air, which we never had in this house,” Shae says. “It’s such a blessing. It’s basically a new home.”
It took a few groups coming in to help make so many projects possible. Shae says that seeing people come from across the country to help her family was a true faith-building experience after nearly three years of hopelessness.
“They all just exemplified God’s love,” she says. “I could feel the love in all the groups that came. It just overwhelmed me some days.”
Disaster ReBuilders representatives and volunteers joined the family for an emotional home dedication on September 17, 2021, and it has been a joyous run through Christmas, especially for her two sons — Elijah, 7, and Micah, 4.
“My boys are old enough now that they’ve taken an interest in decorating the tree,” Shae says. “We’ve got ornaments that they’ve made and we’ve been gifted. They took glowsticks and made them into bracelets and hung them all over the tree. It’s just a blessing to be able to be in our home and to have more space to give them some of the things we didn’t have room for before. It won’t be a huge Christmas this year, but we’re so happy and blessed to be in our own space. They haven’t asked for much, so we’re going to get them what they did ask for. We’re just excited to wake up in our own space and kind of get back to some of the traditions that we had before.”
While the Nolan home is filled with Christmas joy, Shae says her heart is filled with empathy for those going through other natural disasters, such as those dealing with the aftermath of tornadoes in Kentucky.
“I’m praying for them,” she says. “At first you’re looking for your family and making sure everyone’s safe. Then you come back to nothing, and it’s just devastating. I know how they feel. I know where they are. I know what it’s like to see everything that you’ve worked so hard for just be piled up on the curb. Ugh. I am just devastated with them because I truly understand.”