It’s been more than a year since Hurricane Irma ripped shingles off the home of Grady Smokes, an 88-year-old DeLand retiree.
A leaky roof, electrical problems, damaged flooring and a broken fence would challenge any able-bodied homeowner. But Smokes, a widower and great-grandfather who has lived on Stone Street for 44 years, has slowed down considerably since retiring from more than 30 years of working as a butcher.
“Physically or financially, I couldn’t do it myself,” Smokes said.
Luckily for Smokes, his home was selected by the philanthropic arm of the communications company Spectrum to be repaired by volunteers.
To make the repairs, the cable company joined with Rebuilding Together Orlando (RTO), a nonprofit that renovates and repairs housing, and Volusia Interfaiths/Agencies Networking in Disaster (VIND), a coalition of faith-based organizations that focuses on disaster relief.
More than 30 volunteers who gathered at Smokes’ home were not-so-bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 8 a.m. Oct. 6, as Brian Coller of RTO, Joe Durkin of Spectrum, DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar and Volusia County Council Member Pat Patterson all briefly spoke about the need for safe housing and the importance of a healthy community.
When the coffee began flowing and the repair work began, some team members from Spectrum, RTO and VIND split off to head to the Spring Hill Community Resource Center, where the job was handing out 150-plus “safe and healthy home” kits.
The kits included weather stripping, emergency radios, first-aid kits, caulk and carbon-monoxide alarms.
Shilretha Dixon, head of the Resource Center, boosted attendance at the giveaway with a fish fry, and volunteers from Spectrum began handing out kits at 9:30 a.m.
Barb Girtman, who is challenging Patterson for the District 1 seat on the Volusia County Council, stopped by for a quick meet-and-greet.
By 11 a.m., the only thing left was tilapia.
Back at the Smokes home, workers had already finished painting most of the exterior of the house. New mulch lay in the garden beds. Broken tile had been pried up and discarded, and a hallway was half-finished with new wood flooring.
Smokes looked on from his seat in the shade.
“The good Lord is smiling on me today,” he said.
VIND is currently working through a backlog of homes in Volusia County damaged by Hurricane Irma.
“We do a roof a week,” VIND Program Coordinator Terry Foley said. “We have 71 regular homes and 120 mobile homes right now, so we’re looking at about three to four years.”