By Patrick Yost, Editor
On May 1, 2011 the modular home of Lucille Taylor took a body blow from a nasty storm that swept through Madison. The Cook Hill house was rocked on it’s foundations but, in the coming daylight, it stood.
On April 27, 2011, the house took a direct shot to the head. When a tornado raged through the Cook Hill/ Green Meadows area Taylor’s house was in a direct path for destruction.
Sitting in a warm vehicle on the lot on what used to be her home, she can remember the dates like they were anniversaries or birthdays.
“I was thinking it ain’t gonna hit this trailer cause we’re in the bottom,” she says.
She was wrong.
On that dark night, a night when destruction raged to the point that the city of Madison eventually requested and received a $268,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant to construct storm shelters in the neighborhood, the high winds ripped most of the roof of Taylor’s home. “I was scared to death,” she said.
It got worse.
After she left the house, locking the door behind, thieves entered through the damaged roof within days of the destruction and stole everything of value. Taylor lost her appliances, jewelry, shoes, a clock, “everything they could sell,” she said.
They left behind a washer and dryer because “they’re too heavy to carry.” Since 2011, with the modular home condemned, Taylor has bounced from relatives’ homes to low–cost motels for shelter. “It’s like I’m homeless,” she says.
“I’m still just bouncing around. My stuff is in storage.” And while it is more than two years after the storm, Madison’s last storm refugee has hope. A Community Rises Up When Madison City Council Member Joe DiLetto heard from Morgan County NAACP President Laura Butler of Taylor’s plight, he thought of two things.
First, he says, he wanted to find a way for the private sector to help and second, he wanted to establish a fund to help persons with radically extenuating circumstances lift themselves from the debris of misfortune. Taylor was a perfect candidate, he said.
DiLetto contacted the Catholic Charity Fund and requested aid for Taylor. Butler arranged a loan from an anonymous giver. Together, they raised more than $7,000, enough to begin the process of searching for a replacement home.
Since the storm, Taylor says, an insurance policy she had on the house and the lot paid the cost of the lot but nothing else. She had dirt, but no house. She has one now, of sorts. After the initial fundraising efforts fell short, DiLettto again went out “with my guitar and tin cup” and asked 15 individuals for aid. He received a positive response from six that totaled $4,700.
That was enough to purchase a repossessed modular house (complete with graffiti in one of the bedrooms) and move the house to the Cook Hill site. What Now The house stands vacant now. The inside needs work.
Paint, new cabinets, something to cover the spray–painted wall. Diletto says he’s received commitments from craftsmen, including himself, to provide the elbow grease to finish the job, to make the modular home livable for a 64–year–old woman who has bounced from house to house, from motel room to motel room for the past 31 months.
“I have been amazed at the reaction of people when you talk to them,” DiLetto says of the folks who have committed money or time to make the modular house a home. “We’ve got some good people that are doing the labor for free.”
The house will be ready by February, DiLetto says. But there remains a need. DiLetto says the house needs another $3,000 to $4,000 to purchase a heating and cooling system. “We thought collectively we had enough,” he says. Despite the shortfall, which DiLetto and Butler say they will continue to work to fill, Taylor is looking forward to the day that she can toss aside the set of box springs she now sleeps on and move back into her own home.
Despite the ripping winds and thieves, Taylor says that her faith has not been shaken. “It’s a miracle,” she says. “There are some good people in this world.”