By Cindy Solomon

A flood unlike any in the history of Humphreys County, Tennessee, destroyed hundreds of homes in 2021. Nearly 150 belonged to low-income households, many of whom were senior adults. A $60,000 grant from ENCORE Ministry — a ministry of the Tennessee-Western Kentucky (TWK) Conference of The United Methodist Church — helped rebuild four homes owned by senior adults qualifying for affordable housing.

Appalachia Service Project (ASP), a Christian ministry that provides critical home repair and replacement in central Appalachia, oversaw the work on these four homes and is committed to rebuilding between 40 and 50 more.

“Thanks in part to ENCORE Ministry, grant money was used to help with construction costs related to four new homes for elderly flood survivors,” said Julie Thompson, ASP’s director of New Build and Disaster Recovery.

“The need for someone to come and build homes back for low-income flood survivors was a need brought to ASP by the community and partners in Waverly,” Thompson said. “We researched any available resources we could find to help these families. ENCORE Ministry came via a reference from our board chair, John Pearce, who helped ASP grants manager, Jim Powell, with the application.”

Pearce’s name may sound familiar to some readers because of his work chairing the Council on Finance and Administration in the TWK Conference.

Funding — such as ENCORE Ministry’s grant — makes ASP’s work possible in communities where hope can be hard to find.

“We have seen the hand of God all over the good work we have been part of in Waverly since the flood. The community welcomed ASP with open arms and everyone rallied around a common goal of getting families back in their homes. Local churches of all denominations contributed to fundraising and working on homes. We have welcomed hundreds of volunteers into Waverly, and residents know they are not forgotten because caring groups keep coming to serve them,” Thompson said.

Owners of the four homes rebuilt in part with ENCORE Ministry grant funding received keys to their new homes over the last year, less than two years after tragedy struck. The impact is inspiring and life-changing:

  • An elderly couple lost everything during the flood. Having already paid off their mortgage, they felt hopeless. The thought of starting over was burdensome. ASP gave them a mortgage-free home they can leave to their children. The couple’s grandchildren, who stay with them often, were excited to see their rooms.
  • Another recipient is an 80-year-old woman who helps take care of her traumatized daughter, 61, who lost her husband and the couple’s business in the flood. The new home reduces the burdens both women carry.
  • Eileen Pucket, a disabled senior, frequently volunteers at the local food pantry making sure other flood survivors have access to basic food needs. She was denied a FEMA settlement on her home because – unbeknownst to her – former owners collected a FEMA settlement in a previous flood. During the storm, Puckett was trapped in her home with water up to her chest until rescuers in a boat came to her aid.
  • Nannie Marie Bell, a senior widow, lived in her house since 1973. During the flood, the foundation washed away on one side, and the house shifted from what was left of the foundation. With water rising too fast for evacuation, Bell’s daughter helped her into the attic to keep them both safe.