Volunteers Restore Hope, Find Flag After Hurricane Michael

February 20, 2019 • United States
Kara (center, in black) prays with Samaritan’s Purse volunteers before they begin working on her home that was destroyed by Hurricane Michael.
Kara (center, in black) prays with Samaritan’s Purse volunteers before they begin working on her home that was destroyed by Hurricane Michael.

After her house was destroyed by Hurricane Michael, a Panama City, Florida, homeowner was relieved when Samaritan’s Purse volunteers arrived.

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Four months ago, Hurricane Michael upended Kara Green’s life. The storm’s fury destroyed her home and most of her belongings even while the homes of her neighbors remained relatively unscathed.

Today she lives in a small camp trailer in her backyard, courtesy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Multiple times a day, Kara, an investigator with the Florida Department of Children and Families, walks by what is left of her home and wrestles with what happened to her normal life. She misses simple things like taking ordinary showers and being able to sit on her couch.

Kara stands in what is left of her kitchen and living room.

Kara stands in what is left of her kitchen and living room.

But when Marine veteran Glenn Stover appeared leading a team of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers, Kara’s perspective changed. As she showed him the extent of the damage on her property, she said, “I felt such a sense of relief. I thought, it’s going to be all right. Someone does actually care.”

Glenn introduced Kara to his team of nine volunteers who had come from places ranging from Michigan to Tennessee to serve in Jesus’ Name. He pointed out that Kara not only lived alone, but that what was left of her belongings fit in two blue plastic bins.

As the team talked, Kara mentioned that one of the cherished things she lost in the storm was her American flag, which she flew in honor of her grandfather who served in the Marine Corps during World War II. It was, therefore, meaningful to have a Marine leading the restoration effort on her home.

The team quickly got to work, removing debris from her yard and by the end of the day, more than 20 orange-clad volunteers had arrived to haul ruined belongings to the curb for trash pickup and to strip her home to the studs.

WATCH VIDEOS ABOUT OUR RESPONSES TO HURRICANES FLORENCE AND MICHAEL

The Storm Rolls In

The morning of October 10, 2018—exactly five years from the day she purchased her home—Kara woke at 5:30 in panic. She had planned to stay home through the storm, but that day she just didn’t have a good feeling about it. She took a shower to try and calm herself down, but it didn’t work.

At 6 a.m., she called her parents who live five miles west of her and asked her dad to pick her up. Somehow—even though their home was in a mandatory evacuation zone and hers wasn’t—it seemed like a safer plan. Before leaving, she did laundry and packed mostly pajamas for her time away. She had no way of knowing these would be the only parts of her wardrobe that would survive the storm.

Glenn (left) discusses the debris removal with Kara and her friend Heather.

Glenn (left) discusses the debris removal with Kara and her friend Heather.

When her dad came, she loaded up her two cats and two dogs and headed for safety. When the storm struck just after noon, they were waiting it out together in her parents’ home which sustained little damage.

The next morning, Kara and her dad returned to her home to check on her 24 chickens in her backyard—thinking there would be little damage otherwise.

She chatted with one of the neighbors when they arrived and then got her key out to check on the house.

“You don’t need the key,” her neighbor said.

During the hurricane, this friend had tried repeatedly to close Kara’s front door, only to have it blow open again as water poured in.

When Kara entered her home and saw that half her roof was ripped off and everything inside destroyed, she was devastated. “I was in shock. I just started hysterically crying,” she said.

More tears flowed every time she saw the house in the first two weeks following the storm.

Digging Out

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers work on cleaning up the debris in Kara’s backyard.

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers work on cleaning up the debris in Kara’s backyard.

Even before our volunteers arrived, Kara’s friend Heather Jordan joined her to help dig through the foot and a half of wet insulation and drywall that covered her home’s floor. They were in search of anything salvageable.

To their delight, they located Kara’s class ring, a necklace her father gave her, and some of her grandmother’s jewelry. They also found her middle school gym uniform and a “What would Jesus do?” bracelet. Uncovering the latter, Kara tossed it to Heather and told her to put it on.

“We all need Jesus right now,” Kara said. It was a truth the duo knew from attending City Church at Northside—Samaritan’s Purse host church in Panama City—in their youth, but it seemed clearer now because of the storm.

Despite all the damage, Kara believes Jesus has given her a good perspective:

“It’s terrible for me, but I’m grateful this happened to me and not my neighbors.” They had all stayed in their homes during the hurricane.

Raising the Flag Again

As Samaritan’s Purse volunteers continued to clean up Kara’s property that early February day, they found her flag buried under debris in the backyard. Using some duct tape, Glenn attached a pole to the side of her home so “Old Glory” could fly again.

Samaritan’s Purse raise the flag she thought was lost in the storm.

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers raise the flag Kara thought was lost in the storm.

In addition to restoring this memory of Kara’s grandfather, the team of volunteers left her home ready to be rebuilt.

Steve Kish of Woodstock, Georgia, was one of the volunteers who had the privilege of working on her home.

“It’s great to be able to help following this devastating hurricane,” he said. “People don’t realize how bad it is. Most of America doesn’t comprehend what has happened here.”

But whether or not others understand, Kara continues to press forward. Grateful for Samaritan’s Purse, she said, “I really appreciate the sense of calm hope you guys gave me.”

Samaritan’s Purse continues to work in Panama City and send out volunteer teams. Find out more about volunteering.

As of Feb. 19, we’ve helped over 500 homeowners with hundreds more to go. A total of 71 people have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior during this response.

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U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of volunteers to provide emergency aid to U.S. victims of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In the aftermath of major storms, we often stay behind to rebuild houses for people with nowhere else to turn for help.

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