Disaster response non-profit starts first project in Bay County

Local News

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — A single mother of eight whose home was heavily damaged in Hurricane Michael is getting a gift unlike any other.

Through the help of volunteers with Fuller Center Disaster Rebuilders, the family’s home is being rebuilt for free.

“Disaster Rebuilders came about after Hurricane Katrina after some guys decided who wanted to start rebuilding homes that were damaged through the storm,” said Volunteer Coordinator, Toni Ratliff.

The group has a current project in Texas as well as North Carolina and starting a new project in Bay County.

“We focus on lower-income homeowners who didn’t have insurance and there’s no way they can physically get the work done,” Ratliff said.

The volunteer group started their first project on Wednesday morning.

“This family is a single mom who has four children and then she was asked to foster four more. This was her grandmother’s home initially and unfortunately after the storm when they all evacuated, the grandmother passed away,” Ratliff said.

The family is currently living in a FEMA trailer and wants more than anything a place to call their own once again.

“Her oldest child is seven and he has autism. There are different things she really needs and she is not in contact with any foundations or organizations that work specifically with the autism spectrum so we want to make sure that this family is connected and has all the resources this child deserves to have,” Ratliff said.

Ratliff says they are working alongside Rebuild Bay County to find families in need.

Executive Director Donna Pilson says they are now working with the school district to get teachers and students back into their homes.

This process is how the nine-person family was chosen for the project.

“We have teachers and staff that are driving in from Dothan and other surrounding areas so that’s more time they’re away from their families and come to work. The kids already dealing with so much. There are several stressors and to have them with a place to sleep, to shower, a place to call their own is just one more thing that’s off their plate,” Pilson said.

If you think Fuller Center Disaster Rebuilders can help you, they ask you to visit the Community Recovery Center inside the Bay County Library for more information.

The center is open Monday – Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

To learn more about Disaster Rebuilders, click here.

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