Making flooded homes livable

Dec. 24—As Haywood homes are made livable following flooding from Tropical Storm Fred, Baptists on Mission are playing an oversized role.

Bill Martin, affectionately known as "Bill the Baptist" by many of the partner agencies he works with, is a full-time volunteer with the Cary-based organization, and has been spending every day except Sunday in Haywood making flood damaged homes habitable again.

At one point, the organization had a list of 54 homes to repair. That list has been whittled down to 11, Martin said, adding these homes have substantial damage and will take most of the winter to complete.

"We're coming along really good on the homes that need to be worked on, that's for sure," Martin said, praising volunteers from Haywood and beyond.

Baptists on Mission spend $17,500 on average to get a flooded home ready for occupancy. The money for the work done so far has come from donations made to United Way of Haywood County and Mountain Projects, two nonprofit agencies in the county that are integral partners in Haywood's flood recovery efforts.

While working in Haywood, Martin's home base in Calvary Baptist Church in Canton, where he and several others have campers set up and serve as the morning gathering spot when work teams are dispatched.

"We're making a pot of coffee by 5:30 a.m. and usually get at the job site by 8 a.m.," Martin said.

Volunteers pack a lunch and generally wrap up by 3:30 or 4. Most of the work is being done in the Cruso area, but a couple Canton area homes have rebuilt, too, he said.

"From what I see, we've helped everybody who has asked us for help," Martin said. "We're behind a little bit, but we've been to all of them. If we can do them, we do them, but if people don't ask, we don't know about them."

With the Baptist on Mission larger-than-life presence in the flood-stricken areas, most are aware of what they have to offer, and new requests crop up regularly, Martin said.

Some are waiting for insurance or waiting to see what is offered through other programs such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"When they find out nothing is coming, they call us to give them a hand," Martin said.

Baptists on Mission can be reached through the Haywood County Storm Recovery Hotline at 356-2022.