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“Christmas is always a magical time,” said Deola Spikes, sitting at the dining room table of her home on Hillebrandt Road, just outside Beaumont’s city limits.

This year there is a different magic in the Feast of Spikes.

For the past three years, he’s been celebrating the holiday in the family’s trailer home, which was heavily damaged during Tropical Depression Imelda in 2019. a home with no heat, no hot water, no mold and no leaks that required pots to be removed to catch the water. the subsequent rains.

In late September, Spikes finally got the keys to his brand new, elevated home, after being on the Texas General Land Office waiting list for the Imelda Assistance Program home rebuild since fall 2019.

Before Tropical Depression Imelda, Spikes’ home was damaged during Tropical Storm Harvey, “but Imelda pulled it out,” he said.

Related to: Area residents are recovering from Imelda

Rising water, the likes of which he had never seen before, soon entered the house, damaging the carpet and flooring. Part of its roof gave way, causing additional water damage, this time from above, as Imelda raged.

“I’ve never seen water like this before,” recalls Spikes, who has been a resident of the area since she and her husband bought the property in the 1970s.

Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies rescued her from the rising waters, taking her to her granddaughter’s home, where she stayed for about two weeks before staying with her son.

Insurance paid off his house and “I didn’t have any money other than that $5,000, so I fixed it up to the best of my ability,” Spikes said. “I had nowhere to go, so it was better to conserve and stay at home” while waiting for the land office to be rebuilt.

“It was too much to fix. So I just shut everything down and bide my time,” Spikes said.

Her family helped with the renovations, patching the roof, pulling out the damaged carpet and repainting the walls before she returned.

At that time, Spikes discovered that his hot water heater was damaged, along with a central air heating unit that caught fire while he was at home.

He couldn’t afford a new water heater, and electrical problems made it difficult to repair his home’s heating system.

But Spikes was content with what he had.

To bathe or cook dishes, he heated water behind the pot on the stove. “I would heat water to wash the dishes, then heat another pot to rinse them,” she recalls. Bathing required a similar ritual.

He had an electric heater that helped on cold days and nights, but still, with every rain or cold front, Spikes would say, “I would be nervous. It was a tough time, but I managed to get through it.”

Related: Harvey survivors are finally returning to new homes

Still, her family was concerned about the health of the unheated home, which had mold and mildew problems and leaks seeping in above the patched roof.

“My son was always worried about me staying here, and my daughter-in-law works at the hospital, so she sees a lot and was always snapping at me, but it’s a good mix,” Spikes said.

Amid the challenges of living in those conditions, Spikes said her faith and family helped her get through.

“It’s just a blessing to have a family that comes together and stays with you,” she said.

That family included his church, the New Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, which is literally Spikes’ next door neighbor.

“Pastor Davis and his wife are so sweet. They take care of the elderly,” he said. “If I missed a Sunday or Wednesday night, he would come or call to check on me. Our church is a family, so everyone looks out for each other.”

Despite the challenges, Spikes’ faith remained steadfast, and because of that, he felt blessed for what he had.

“I just feel like God has rained on me and I feel special because God deals with everyone according to his will and what he wants them to have and I just thank him for it for the gift he gave me.” he said.

Spikes’ faith was put to the test when he received word in January 2020 that the Texas General Land Office had no funds to support Imelda’s rebuilding, putting him among many in a kind of residential limbo.

“I didn’t know what to think when the money ran out,” Spikes said, but he knew he wasn’t alone. Nine others in her neighborhood were waiting for their new homes when the funding fell through.

“GLO has worked to secure additional funding … to assist all applicants who are eligible for disaster recovery assistance under federal requirements,” said General Land Office spokeswoman Brittany Eck.

In total, the office received 3,788 project applications, of which 1,182 have been approved for construction, are in progress or have already been completed. Hardee, Jefferson and Orange counties saw the largest number of applications of the nearly 50 counties served by the program.

In January 2021, Spikes and his ilk got better news. The project secured new funding and is back on track.

Related. Imelda’s rebuild is back on track

In May 2022, he received word that the construction of his house was near.

Spikes watched his neighbor’s houses being torn down and rebuilt, wondering when the next one would happen.

Sometimes Spikes wondered if he had been forgotten.

However, at the end of June, his worries subsided. He was on the last leg of a very long, difficult journey.

“That’s one thing I’ve learned with this house is patience. when you think it won’t come, it does,” he said.

From late June until September, while construction continued, Spikes stayed in a hotel provided by the Land Office.

He and his family came often to watch the construction.

“I was so excited. I was driving by and the contractor, Mr. Joe, was so sweet and so nice, and he was telling me he’d let me know when that day was going to be,” she recalled.

When she got the keys in early September and walked into her new home for the first time, she was pleasantly surprised to find that “it was like everything I wanted she put in this house. He said he likes everyone to be happy,” Spikes said.

And he was happy, but more than that, Spikes felt a sense of relief and peace of mind that had been almost three years in the making.

“It’s just so nice to not have to worry about how cold you’re going to be or worry about putting a pot on to catch the water,” Spikes said.

The size and layout of the new home took some getting used to, but Spikes had one thing he wanted for the rest of his life.

Pointing to the light fixture hanging above her dining room table, she said.

Related: How much was Imelda worth?

“I’ve always loved torches, and my granddaughter says, ‘Grandma, it’s not a torch, but it’s a torch to me.’

And it will light up the table on which Spikes looks forward to feeding his family during visits that have begun since before Christmas even arrived.

“This (holiday) is more interesting because everyone wants to come and sit at the table in the new house and enjoy it,” he said.

They will include nearly all of her three surviving children, nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren packing the holiday-decorated home, with the tree up just after Thanksgiving, followed by the lights, ornaments and other decorations that once adorned her old home. for every holiday. season

“It’s all old scenery, because it’s not about new stuff. I didn’t even get all the new furniture when I moved. It’s about what you can take and fix,” he said.

And especially during the holidays, it’s about the family getting together and appreciating what you have for another year.

“I’ll have company all day Sunday and I’ll be out,” Spikes said.

And when they arrive, she’ll have their favorite holiday foods and sweets ready to enjoy.

“I have to work a lot because I never know who’s going to come and everyone has different likes,” she said.

Among the items filling the table will be turkey and ham or ribs, okra with sausage and shrimp, mash, beans, cookies and her traditional German chocolate cake.

But the main dish at Spikes Christmas will be what’s on the table, not what’s on it.

“We always have a good time and I’m looking forward to just being with my family and thanking God for letting me see another year through,” she said.

And getting through another year of hardship with a happy ending in a safe new home is an extra special blessing for Spikes.

“It’s just a beautiful house and it took me a long time to get it. But when you go through things, you get strength from it,” she said, crediting her faith in God for helping her get through the tough times, as well as her family for lifting her as high as they could along the way.

Spikes smiled as he said. “I’m sure my husband is looking down on me (as well as the daughter he lost in 2016) saying, “he is doing well”.

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