Woman who lost home in derecho, 2008 floods, getting it back after donations

Checking in on the progress of a woman in Cedar Rapids after her home sustained significant damage in the August derecho.
Published: Oct. 5, 2020 at 10:54 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Cedar Rapids is a great city because people care about each other and we have all been through a lot the last few months. This is a story about thanking some people who showed real compassion helping a single mother in dire straights.

Kelsey Hallowell’s home in the Edgewood Forest Mobile home park off Johnson Avenue In Cedar Rapids was destroyed by the August 10 derecho. Unbelievably, her house was also destroyed in the 2008 flood.

“The drywall all fell off the ceiling, there’s a couple of window frames that broke,” Hallowell said. “The floor is shoved down, the walls pulled the floor down.”

Due to the extent of the damage, Hallowell had to resort to sleeping in her van. When Betsy Birchard heard about Hallowell’s situation, she wanted to help her out. So, she started a GoFundMe page after having gone through a similar ordeal.

“I was displaced from a house fire, and my boss started a GoFundMe account and raised a bunch of money for me," Birchard said. “When I ran into Kelsey and I had asked her if I could help her, it was kind of, one, a way that I could pay it forward and, two, I just knew that I could do it because I had had somebody do it for me."

We featured Kelsey’s story on KCRG, and donations started pouring in.

“People have donated, I think it’s at $6,600 now,” Birchard said. “We’ve spent about four grand on Kelsey’s house which is pretty much all done, or mostly done. So, the extra couple grand it’s going to help flip another trailer home for another family that has been displaced in this park.”

In addition to the donations, local businesses also donated supplies. Birchard said that Kamal’s Flooring gave carpeting, Maher Brothers gave the lumber, and Iowa Storm Restoration gave all of the roofing supplies.

“Thank you, everyone, so much,” Birchard said.

Birchard has about eight volunteers helping her rebuild the home, and, when it is done, it will be better than the original.

“We took out all of the one-by-twos and two-by-twos that were supporting the walls and put in two-by-fours,” Birchard said. “It is going to be more structurally sound then it was before. Plus, she’s going to have a peaked roof as opposed to, before, it was just a flat roof. It’s going to be better than it was before.”

Everything will be new, even the cabinets.

“Those are so nice,” Birchard said. “My friend, Jennifer Taylor, custom painted the cabinets and refurbished them from another home.”

Hallowell said that she could not thank all of the people who donated and volunteered enough after going through such a tough time.

“I’m very grateful,” Hallowell said. “That means so much to me for people that I don’t even know, people I’ve never met, to step in and help me.”

Drywalling is going on now, followed by the installation of the carpeting and siding. Then, Birchard will move on to helping rebuild a home for another family.

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