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Despite it all, she’s home—and “the volunteers were amazing!”

May 19, 2020

Sharon Taylor is home. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, despite Hurricane Harvey, despite a disability that causes her back to hurt, despite losing all but two of her beloved seven pets.

“I guess it’s true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger—but I don’t need this kind of strength,” Taylor says with a wry laugh.

Receiving the keys to a new home in Rockport, Texas—built largely by MDS volunteers—seems nothing short of a miracle.

She moved in on April 17, about two years and eight months from the onslaught of Hurricane Harvey. A spinoff tornado ripped the roof off her original home then, before she could find some tarps, torrential rain ruined the interior.

She’s still unpacking boxes and putting her salvaged items away, little by little. “I love my home,” says Taylor. “For awhile I just sat, took pictures , and enjoyed being here.”

Traditional MDS volunteers first started framing Taylor’s new home, then MDS RV volunteers continued the interior work. When all volunteers were forced to leave on March 13 due to COVID-19, the Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group finished the job with local volunteers who could work solo. The home was funded via a grant from Samaritan’s Purse.

Just after Hurricane Harvey struck, Taylor lived temporarily in her truck, then moved into a hotel room funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Her pets—seven birds and a dog—made it hard to find any other shelter. She was able to house her dog and some of her birds with friends, and the rest she brought with her everywhere.

After one month, the FEMA-funded hotel was offered on two-week increments. “They’d say ‘don’t expect it to be available after two weeks.’ This was so stressful, worrying every two weeks if I’d have a place to live. I’m on disability,” says Taylor. “I get one check a month.”

The displacement was not only stressful on Taylor but also on her animals: all but two birds perished. But now, she’s ready for a new beginning, and she’s grateful for the MDS volunteers.

“They’re such hardworking people,” she says. “They were amazing.”

Christopher Brandt, executive director of the Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group, said the MDS volunteers worked until the very last minute. “They had done 99% of this house,” he said, adding that MDS has been the foundation of hope not just for Taylor but for the whole community.

“We have really, really valued our relationship with MDS,” he says. “People thank me, but the only reason we look tall is because we stand on the shoulders of giants: the MDS volunteers. We can’t thank you enough fo the contributions you have made for people of Coastal Bend.”

By Susan Kim, freelance writer