November 24, 2022
A bright day in Crisfield: first of six homes dedicated
Myrtle Haugh called her husband, Robert, with good news: their new home was ready!
From his hospital bed, Robert was able to listen to the dedication of their new house, the first of six that will be built by Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) volunteers working in the town of Crisfield on Maryland’s eastern shore.
The town, home to about 2,700 people, has been weighed down by flood disasters for more than a decade. Hurricane Sandy brought widespread devastation in 2012, then repeat flooding—most recently two years ago—deluged many of the same homes.
“When our home was destroyed, it destroyed a part of me, because that was the first home we lived in together,” said Myrtle, recalling the floodwaters taking the couple by surprise. “When we walked out the back door, water was up to my knees.”
But as she stood in the driveway of her new house—elevated well past the flood level—on a bright, sunny fall day, she could put that flood behind her. “I can’t wait to move in here with you,” she said to Robert on the phone.
Surrounded by volunteers and family members—and with Robert listening—she received a wall hanging, a Bible, and the keys to the new home.
“Everyone always says how God takes care of people,” she said. “Well, He really took care of us.”
About a dozen young volunteers from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, were on hand to finish up work on the home and then participate in the dedication.
Marcile Riingler, 19, volunteered in place of another young person who couldn’t come. She wasn’t quite sure what to expect. “It’s been a lot of fun—and we painted the whole week!” she said.
“We also sang and laughed so much!” chimed in Cheryl Zimmerman, 21.
The young women said they are planning to volunteer again and hope to convince others to come along.
“We are going home today, and we’re going to say how much fun we had,” said Julia Weaver, 20.
Randy Laird, a Somerset County commissioner, also attended the dedication. “Most of all, I want to thank the volunteers who stretched the dollars to build even more homes than we thought they could,” he said.
Darlene Taylor, mayor of Crisfield, marveled at her first opportunity to attend an MDS home dedication. “I can’t thank you enough for the inspiration you give,” she said. “I know you’re building homes but you’re also changing lives. What you do—there are just no words.”
Kevin King, MDS executive director, told Myrtle he was happy that many volunteers and donors were behind her newly-built home.
“We’re excited for you to move into the warm, lovely, beautiful home above the dangers of flooding—God willing,” he said. “Today’s a bright day in Crisfield, Maryland, and it’s gotten even brighter with this event.”
The home also marks the first in Maryland in which cabinets from the MDS Kansas Unit cabinet shop have been installed.
In Crisfield, MDS also works with its partners in the Maryland Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters coalition.
At the dedication, Rev. Phillip C. Huber, Lutheran Disaster Response coordinator for Maryland and Delaware, said such partnerships are the backbone of effective disaster recovery.
“That’s one of the things I like most about disaster response: the churches become one community,” he said. “We simply work together and carry out Jesus’s mission in the world to care for one another.”
Michelle Hughes, chair of the Eastern Shore Long Term Recovery Committee, said she found the ecumenical partnerships heartwarming.
“It is remarkable to me the way the faith communities have come together in a way in which there is no question about anything except: How can we help?”
Larry Stoner, MDS Region One Operations Coordinator, recalled when he first met Myrtle and Robert, and stood in their driveway talking about the possibility of building them a new home.
“Now to be standing here—it’s pretty incredible,” said Stoner. “There have been many hands of love that helped bring the dream into reality.”
As the dedication came to a close, Robert finally spoke from his hospital bed, and Myrtle held the phone up for his words to ring: “Thanks to everybody,” he said, “Just thanks to everybody.”