NORTH RIVER — When 2 feet of water came in their house during Hurricane Florence, Claude and Hilda Wallace weren’t sure if they would ever celebrate another Christmas in their home.

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of churches and nonprofit hurricane recovery groups, the Wallaces received the keys to their renovated, three-bedroom home Monday.

“I thank God for each and everyone for all the work they did,” Ms. Wallace, 67, said Monday. “God bless them. We are sure thankful.”

Mr. Wallace, 68, also thanked those who made it possible for the couple to return home for Christmas.

“It means a lot to me,” Mr. Wallace said. “It sure is nice.”

Mr. Wallace said he and his wife evacuated ahead of the hurricane in September 2018, but when they returned home, they discovered 2 feet of water had damaged their home and mold was already taking over. They didn’t have insurance.

“It’s the highest the water has ever come in our home,” Mr. Wallace said.

Ms. Wallace said she  heard the N.C. Conference United Methodist Church Disaster Response Center had been set up in Newport and was helping families rebuild their homes. She applied for help.

United Methodist Church Disaster Response case manager Jowita Zerilli said when the group assessed the Wallaces home, officials knew they had to help. Other groups also joined in to assist.

“We started working on their home in October (more than a year after the storm). I know that One Harbor Church (in partnership with Reach Global Crisis Response) had put a roof on their home in July,” Ms. Zerilli said. “The Carteret Long-Term Recovery Alliance replaced their HVAC, and the Carteret Warriors for Recovery helped with furniture. It’s been an amazing partnership.”

Other groups that provided assistance were the American Red Cross and Ann Street United Methodist Church in Beaufort. The Wallaces stayed with family members while the work was underway.

Representatives from most of the organizations attended the small celebration Monday at the renovated home, where the couple not only received keys, but other gifts, such as a handmade prayer shawl from Ann Street United Methodist Church and a lap quilt from Grace Christian Church in Raleigh.

Members of Ms. Wallaces church, Craven Corner Missionary Baptist Church, friends and neighbors also attended. The Rev. Chelsea Hutchinson, pastor of the church, prayed over the home.

NCCUMC Disaster Response case manager Rose Tankard said seeing the couple get back in their home in time for Christmas made the hard work worth it.

“That was one of our goals here, that we could get them back in their home for Christmas,” Ms. Tankard said.

She added there are still many families out of their homes and she continues to receive calls from residents needing help.

“We get calls from people who originally thought they could handle the work themselves and are now discovering it’s more than they can handle,” Ms. Tankard said.

She said there are about 200 families on the waiting list.

Ms. Tankard added it’s because of the hard work of volunteers, many who come from out of state, that families like the Wallaces are able to move back in their homes.

“We can always use volunteers,” she said. “We have Mennonites that are working in the county right now, but we would love to have local groups from churches, like men’s groups, or civic groups or schools, help.”

Those wanting to volunteer or needing assistance can call 1-888-440-9167. To get information on how to donate, call 1-984-365-7307.

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.


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