Volunteers travel 350 miles to help 94-year-old with home repairs

Published 3:05 pm Tuesday, February 22, 2022

RESERVE — A small team of volunteers from Texas traveled 350 miles this past week to repair the home of a 94-year-old Reserve resident.

Shirley Jacob Duhe’s home holds more than 70 years of memories. If the walls could speak, they would tell stories of how Duhe persevered through the loss of her husband and found joy in raising her children. The humble home has withstood countless storms since its construction in 1950, up until Hurricane Ida’s wrath in 2021.

Relentless winds sent pieces of galvanized roof flying through the air, shattering four windows.

Nearly six months after the storm, those windows were finally replaced Saturday by kind-hearted volunteers from Parkway Fellowship Church in Katy, Texas, and Encourager Church in Houston.

“I don’t know them, but to me that’s something extraordinary for them to do this,” Duhe said.

“I’ve been in this house since 1950, and we’ve been through many, many storms. I went through Betsy. This storm is the worst I’ve ever been through.”

Duhe stayed with her daughter in St. Rose during Hurricane Ida, while her son sought shelter at the old family home and held blankets up to the busted windows for more than six hours. When a sheet of roofing came through Duhe’s bedroom window, it sounded like a bomb had come through the house.

Duhe’s granddaughter-in-law, Brandi Tanksley, shared her story with the Parkway Fellowship congregation in Katy, Texas.

James King from Parkway Fellowship and Joe Jacob from Encourager Church were among five volunteers who traveled to St. John the Baptist Parish last week. While in town, the volunteers also assisted with sheetrock work at a LaPlace home that sustained two feet of floodwaters during Hurricane Ida.

Jacob said the churches first came together to assist with rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. They previously traveled to Louisiana to help survivors of Hurricane Laura in 2020, and they are now assisting with the Hurricane Ida recovery through a partnership with New Wine Christian Fellowship in LaPlace.

“There’s always a need for skilled workers to do this,” Jacob said. “We always try to put ourselves in their shoes. What would we do if we were in that position? Seeing the relief that comes over their faces when they finally get their home back the way it should be – that’s rewarding. It’s very emotional for both sides.”

Jacob is especially concerned about families facing the ups and downs of seasonal weather changes while residing in damaged homes.

It’s even more gut-wrenching when a family is suddenly faced with the financial burden of extensive repairs on a house that has been paid off for years.

For many, including Duhe, rising costs and sky-high deductibles make it almost impossible to afford insurance coverage.

When King arrived at Duhe’s home in Reserve, he found windows boarded up with corrugated iron and plastic bags taped over openings.

“When you are effectively stuck at home for most of the time, it’s like you are trapped in your own house, living in a cave. The resolve of the people is just incredible,” King said.

He added that it’s special to spend time with the families and get to hear their stories.

While the church can’t rebuild every home that was impacted by the storm, the congregation strives to impact as many families as possible by transporting materials to the St. John Long-Term Recovery Group in LaPlace.

“We are rebuilding the homes and the lives of the people who have suffered the most,” King said. “We bring a lot of materials with us as well and leave them at New Wine so the local organizations can use them. When we first came up, it was just impossible to get drywall or the materials that we needed because of the shortage.”