CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Betty Sarduy's heart still races when she thinks about the first time she saw the damage flood waters caused to her home on 3rd Avenue Southwest, the summer of 2008.
"I had just had open heart surgery a couple years before and I thought I was going to have the big one, then," said Sarduy.
But instead Sarduy's heart and house were saved by volunteers from disaster recovery nonprofit Eight Days of Hope, based in Tupelo, MS. They rebuilt her home's first floor, her basement, rewired the place, and much more.
"Now, that is caring people. And it didn't cost us anything. They even threw in a 20 foot deck on the back of the house," Sarduy said.
Sarduy was just one of many flood victims who showed up at Time Check Park Saturday evening to say thanks to Eight Days, at a picnic dinner in their honor.
From October to November of '08, Eight Days of Hope brought about 1,500 volunteers to Linn County. They came from 41 states and four Canadian provinces with a goal of returning people's homes to normal. It's estimated the group spent more than 40,000 hours fixing 121 homes. That's about $2.5 million of work, done for free.
"Thank you is just not enough. There aren't words to really describe the thankfulness that I feel," said one of the organizers of the picnic, Charles Daugherty of Linn County religious coalition Serve the City.
Eight Days president Steve Tybor said the city's recovery in five years was inspiring. Since working in Cedar Rapids he said his group made four more trips to help disaster victims, for a total of ten trips in all. Tybor estimates they've rebuilt more than 1,400 homes, a value of $18 million worth of work.
"I love the Lord. He tells me in the Bible to love others. To us one of the ways we can express love is not only rebuilding homes, but talking to people and connecting with them a little bit," said Tybor.
Eight Days certainly built that connection with Sarduy. She said she doesn't know what she would have done without them, but knows what she'd like to say to them.
"God bless you. Keep on doing the good work. There's people out there that need you," said Sarduy.