Students repair flood-ravaged houses

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Claremont McKenna College students, Claire Li, left, Jenny Gurev, center, and Johann Lim, right, work together to put waferboards down Friday in Edgecombe County.


Staff Writer

Thursday, March 23, 2017

PRINCEVILLE — Students from as far away as California pitched in on the rebuilding efforts last week in Edgecombe County, wielding hammers and saws in the attempt to restore flooded homes.

Students from Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif., worked beside students from the U.S. Naval Academy and others from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. In all, roughly 25 students participated in the effort to rebuild five homes in the Princeville area so residents can return to them more quickly.

Claremont student Amanda Han said she was moved to see how the area had been affected by the flooding from Hurricane Matthew.

“It was kind of haunting to see so many empty houses here,” Han said.

Johann Lim, a Claremont student who hails from Singapore, said he welcomed the opportunity to help displaced residents.

“I have never been to North Carolina before and this gave me the opportunity to explore a different part of the United States while also helping with disaster relief,” Lim said.

Katie Wesdyk, a student at the U.S Naval Academy, came down to help with other members of the Midshipmen Action Group to aid in the efforts, even though she was on crutches recovering from a severely sprained ankle.

“This work has been difficult,” Wesdyk said, “but it has been rewarding. The families we have worked with have been great.”

William Staton, who lives on Dozier Drive with his wife Elzabeth, said he is grateful for the help the students gave him. Dozier’s home is currently stripped down to the studs in many places and needs new floors, walls and wiring.

“I am thankful to have this help because I cannot do this myself,” said Staton, who is retired. 

Staton and his wife have been living in hotels since the flood damaged his home in October and expects it to be another three months before he returns home. This is the second time his double-wide modular home has been flooded.

“We had about 18 inches of water in the house this time, but it was worse after Hurricane Floyd,” Staton said.

However, Staton said he is not tempted by offers of buyouts and plans to stay where he has lived since 1993. Instead, he has opted to take a philosophical approach to the situation.

“It is nice and quiet out here in the county,” he said. “If I go someplace else, something else might get me, like a fire or another natural disaster. You can’t run away from Mother Nature. Besides, when you fall in love with someplace, you just gotta stay there.”