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Nonprofit battles flooding
Our Neighbor Inc. moves resident, begins repairs
Caregiver La Roy De Leon shows with his foot the water line in Michael Reno’s basement apartment. Fans and dehumidifiers run in two rooms to try to dry out the structure before repairs can begin. Repairs also wait on money. - photo by NAT GURLEY

How to help

Those interested in volunteering or donating money to help make repairs to the flooded Our Neighbor home can contact Mary Margaret Calvert at 770-535-1000.

The rain this summer affected many people in Gainesville, but none quite like Michael Reno, who had to move from his Our Neighbor Inc. home.

Reno was provided housing on Prior Street by the nonprofit group, which helps disabled adults live independently.

When flooding started in June, Randy Owens, a founding volunteer with Our Neighbor, opened his home to Reno, with whom he had previously lived.

The damages to Reno’s home were extensive, with flooding reaching 6 inches in depth. With Reno’s electric bed and wheelchair lift, the organization was worried about electrocution.

Now, repairs are in progress, said Mary Margaret Calvert from Our Neighbor.

“Well, we have ripped out all the walls,” Calvert said. “But ... because this a lower level apartment, the foundation and the back wall of the apartment are seeping in.”

She said the organization and repair crew plan to add a French drain and pump to keep the water out.

However, the speed of the repair process depends largely on donations, she said.

“We’re about $10,000 in,” she said. “We’ve got about $5,000 more to go. Of course, my budget doesn’t allow for $15,000 in damages.”

Every pending repair is needed for Reno’s home because of the numerous safety hazards it presents. Mold and mildew are serious dangers, she said.

According to Calvert, repairs have been slow not only because of low funds. The continuing rainy weather has only made conditions worse, she said.

“(Work has) been going on, but because of so much rain this year, it never could get dry,” she said.

Water seeped through the foundation and proceeded to rise over time.

The organization’s initial attempts at repairs, including sandbags and water pumps, failed.

“We had it sealed on the outside, and it would rain again and it just kept getting progressively worse,” she said. “It’s been an ongoing battle.”

The organization turned to professionals, who discovered the source of the remaining damage is between the soil and the base of the walls, requiring complete demolition of every wall in Reno’s home.

Calvert said not all repairs are complete, and the humidity and rain have continued to make it difficult to fix all the damage.

“They haven’t started repair on the back wall yet, but they’re going to,” she said. “We’re trying to get it dried out at this point.”

Although the inconvenience and financial strain have made circumstances difficult for the organization, she said things could be much worse.

“We were very fortunate,” she said. “We have five houses and this is the only one that we had water damage with.”

Volunteers and donations are needed to completely restore Reno’s home, she said. Those interested in contributing may contact Calvert at 770-535-1000.

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