New partnership to speed up RISE construction

CLENDENIN, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The first keys have been handed over to a homeowner as part of a new partnership between the West Virginia RISE flood recovery program and West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) to use volunteers to speed up home construction.

First home completed by a new partnership between RISE and VOAD to use volunteers to speed up the home completion process.

VOAD workers had more than 5,000 volunteer hours to rebuild the Chandler family home in Clendenin. It was completely underwater when the Big Sandy Creek rose in June of 2016.

"I know it is frustrating," VOAD executive director Jenny Gannaway said. "I know a lot of families want to be back in their home. But I am happy to say that we working with a lot of the families through the voluntary agencies, VOAD and donated dollars. We have made sure everybody that is not in their RISE home yet is in a safe and sanitary house and has a place to live right now."

VOAD has rebuilt more than 2,300 homes since the flood using donations and was asked to join the RISE program using HUD money to build houses faster. RISE has completed 85 houses out of the 400 in the program, according to data released Friday morning.

"We knew back in 2016 that this was going to be a four- to seven-year recovery," Gannaway said. "We're down to our last 400 houses. I think when we stop and look at the big picture about how much work is being done here in our state, a lot of work is being done that we really don't know or realize is being done."

VOAD completed the Chandler house in about six months. RISE managers said that is a very impressive timeline given the amount of work needed to raise the house above the floodplain and comply with federal regulations. The group is currently working on five other houses in our region.

"I know it's mine," Teresa Chandler said. "It's just unimaginable how happy I am. I feel like I get the keys and I can lock the door and be safe and secure in my own home."

Chandler is extremely thankful to the construction workers who got her home complete before Thanksgiving, the first holiday she gets to celebrate in her new home with her family.

"I first had thought about leaving, taking what little rubbage I had," Chandler said. "I mean, I didn't get anything out of the house. I thought about just going because I would never want to go through anything like this again. I am sure there are other people out there that don't want to go through it again either."

Chandler has been living in a small camper next to her house as it was rebuilt. She had to swim out of her house when the flood water reached above the roof.

With the new foundation, her home should be out of the floodplain, senior construction manager David McCracken said.

"Just great volunteers, it was a great group of guys," McCracken said about the volunteers from 10 different states. "They all you know spent late hours here doing the best that they could and it turned out really well."