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White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia — Hymns, laughter and tears of relief rang over blustery winds and snow squalls as 10 homes were dedicated in the West Virginia town of White Sulphur Springs on March 11. The homeowners are survivors of a June 2016 flood that was one of the deadliest in the state’s history.

The dedication was held in “Hope Village,” a development planned by the organization Homes for White Sulphur Springs, the Greater Greenbrier Valley Community Foundation, Main Street White Sulphur Springs, and other community partners. Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) and Storm Aid are providing volunteer labor to build 42 homes as part of the village, as well as other homes throughout the area.

Storm Aid draws volunteers from the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Amish community and brings 20-30 young people each week to build the homes. Since the project began in September, 2016, nearly two dozen homes have been built with others still under construction.

As a snow squall swirled around those attending the dedication the Amish youth recited a blessing and sang a hymn for each of the homes and homeowners .

A resident of Hope Village receives the key to her new home. MDS Photo/ Mark Beach

In Hope Village, homes range in size from 900 to 1200 square feet. Six of the homes dedicated on Friday comprised a set of single bedroom row homes. The others are individual units.

Tom Crabtree, who is an architect from York, Pennsylvania and owns a home and a restaurant in White Sulphur Springs, is one of the founders of the enterprise.

At the dedication he thanked the volunteers who helped get the flood survivors into homes. “We are so grateful,” said Crabtree, also adding his thanks to White Sulphur Springs Mayor Lloyd Hanes for the land on which the houses are situated.

“I asked Mayor Hanes if the city would sell this land to us for a dollar,” said Crabtree, “and Mayor Hanes said, ‘No, we won’t take the dollar, we’ll give you the land.’ ”

Homeowners received their keys, a special plaque and a Bible in the dedication ceremony. Wilma Flack, lifelong resident of White Sulphur Springs, said she has never seen flooding like last June’s. “The little creek behind my mobile home had never even gotten out of its banks,” she said, but she lost her home in the storm.

She tearfully thanked volunteers who surrounded her at the dedication. “I feel like these volunteers know us,” she said. “They’re a blessing.”

By Susan Kim for Mennonite Disaster Service

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