Seven family homes, and a community, get new life in Fayetteville

200 volunteers descend on Hollywood Heights neighborhood to raise homes and spirits

David Johnsons home in the Hollywood Heights neighborhood in Fayetteville

FAYETTEVILLE — Elaine Turnipseed’s dad, William Graham Jr., has lived in their home in Fayetteville for more than 50 years. Now 94 years old and legally blind, he’s raised nine kids there. Most of his neighbors have lived in the Hollywood Heights that long too, raising their children and building a community. The street has been silent for nearly a year now, ever since Hurricane Matthew swept through the area tearing off roofs and submerging decades of memories. But this week the sound of hammers, construction and laughter is filling the air again.”When we brought him back after the storm he couldn’t see the damage, but he could smell it and hear the squish of the carpet and feel the damp furniture. He’s a sensitive man and he just cried,” said Turnipseed. On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week 200 volunteers — most of them employees from four Fayetteville area Lowe’s stores — will be helping Graham and six of his neighbors rebuild. They’re replacing windows, installing gutters, replacing damaged surfaces and elevating the homes in preparation for future storms.”Today is super special, we have so many people out here working,” she said. “We are all so excited — the neighbors who are getting help and even those who aren’t. Everyone wants want us to rebuild and move back in because it’s such a close-knit community.”Rebuilding Together of the Triangle with Lowe’s Home Improvement committed $100,000 to rebuild this part of Hollywood Heights.”A lot of people are still displaced from their homes as we speak, even the seven houses we are working on, there are houses right next door to them that have been vacated because of unlivable conditions,” said Tyrone Holliday, store manager of Lowe’s in west Fayetteville. “It’s kinda remarkable what nature can do, but it’s also at times remarkable what we can do to assist those in need.”The help comes at no cost to the homeowners. The project this week is one of 20 in 14 states that Lowe’s and Rebuilding Together have tackled since 2007. They focus on areas that have been hit hard by either disaster or just circumstances.”We are going to be doing 100 homes this year in N.C,” said Daniel Sargent, executive director of Rebuilding Together of the Triangle. “It doesn’t have to be related to a disaster, sometimes it’s just folks who are aging and having trouble keeping their homes maintained and we are just making sure it’s a safe place for them,” he added. “We take volunteer applications year-round and we are always looking for people who want to help support the work. We are excited to partner with Lowe’s and we also partner with churches, civic groups and others who want to make sure their neighbors have safe, healthy places to live.”Eastern N.C. was struck by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, causing a 1,000-year flood event and $1.5 billion in flood damage to 100,000 homes, businesses and schools. Fifty of the state’s 100 counties qualified for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance. The storm claimed 28 lives, nearly 4,000 people were displaced to 109 shelters across eastern N.C., and 34 school systems were closed. More than 80,000 North Carolinians registered for emergency help from federal and state agencies.Coming back from a storm like that is expensive. In the immediate aftermath of Matthew, Congress approved a funding bill with more than $334 million for emergency help to families, repairs to infrastructure, and help for small businesses. N.C.’s congressional delegation also worked to get an additional $750 million in federal help for ongoing Matthew recovery.The N.C. General Assembly passed the Disaster Recovery Act in 2016 just after the storm which allocated more than $200 million for hard-hit communities. Right now, lawmakers are working on a state budget that allocates $150 million more in state assistance. The process to bring eastern N.C. back will be a long one. With 2017’s hurricane season closing in, volunteers want to secure roofs and windows quickly.”This is such a big help for us and the community,” said Turnipseed, who is looking forward to seeing her father return to his home. “It’s not just our parents it’s all of us, we want to come back together. This is very big for all of us and it’s a big step for him to be able to come back home.”