Flooded with hopeThis summer, Kari and Preston Fleck are focusing on their five children — taking trips to the zoo, the beach and more. It’s an effort to make up for last year, when the June flood stole their summer vacation as well as their toys, most of their shoes, a van and more than a third of their home.
This summer, Kari and Preston Fleck are focusing on their five children — taking trips to the zoo, the beach and more. It’s an effort to make up for last year, when the June flood stole their summer vacation as well as their toys, most of their shoes, a van and more than a third of their home.
“It’s been chaos for the past year,” Kari Fleck said, and it will probably take another year’s worth of work to finish rebuilding their home’s finished basement and low-lying entryway-playroom. Their living room has become a storage area for doors, a toilet and other items waiting to be installed. Ladders, cans of paint and woodworking equipment fill the downstairs area, where more than seven feet of water flowed in during the June flood.
With full-time jobs and five kids ages 3-10, the couple has little time or money for the work. But it’s been a learning experience. They research each step to make sure it’s done right, then assemble material and tools.
“Now we know how to do electrical, plumbing …” Fleck said. “We’re slow but sure.” Currently, they are brushing up on framing so they can frame in basement windows and doors.
A month and a half ago, a team of volunteers lived up to their names, flooding the Fleck home with hope. The group came in to mud, tape, texture and paint the walls in the basement, which includes a living room, bedroom, laundry room and full bathroom.
“What they did in one week would have taken us a year,” Fleck said. “It was unreal how much they got done.”
Becky Haskins, regional volunteer coordinator for Flood Homes with Hope, said volunteer efforts to repair flood-damaged homes began this spring. There are at least 40 homes in the area in need of work, from skilled to unskilled labor, from landscaping to inside repairs. They can be found all over the region, from Superior and Duluth to Barnum, Moose Lake and Cloquet. This week, 70 volunteers are working. Another 80 to 100 are expected the week of July 8.
“We definitely would take volunteers,” Haskins said. “If anyone steps forward to help out, we will look for something for them.” Many of the projects coming up, however, need skilled labor.
Haskins met the Fleck family a few weeks before volunteers flooded into their home.
“They were so great,” she said. “The volunteers got attached to the family themselves. They’re super people, a nice family.”
The move to Superior had been a new start for the Fleck family after they lost their jobs in North Dakota. They bought the home near Central Park in 2010. Two years later, the flood came. The children had fallen asleep in the basement family room after watching a movie. They woke up wet at about 1 a.m. and went to tell their dad. He tried to block up appliances and pull a huge chest freezer out of the basement into the entryway. When the basement window broke, water flooded in. The entryway door also burst, carrying more water with it. It took Fleck 45 minutes to drive home from her workplace in Duluth. Water was shooting up from manholes like geysers and nearly every street was blocked. She got home to see water flowing two steps below their main floor.
“It was like a river running through here,” she said. The family spent a week without power, unable to do anything but pull sodden items out of the lower levels, and two weeks in a hotel. The family’s insurance didn’t cover flooding. They did get help from the Salvation Army to pay for their hotel stay. Family members helped with demolition work. Essentia Health, Fleck’s employer at the time, gave the family $5,000. Another $5,000 raised through a church/work/school benefit paid for a new water heater just before cold weather hit. The family also got $5,000 from the local Flood Relief Fund and qualified for a $10,000 Small Business Association loan. Neighbors also stepped forward, dropping off toys for the kids.
“People were generous,” Fleck said.
Haskins said she hopes to find some volunteers well versed in framing to help the family out again. And she encouraged anyone whose home was damaged in the flood to speak up and ask for help.
“One of our hardest things, truly, is to get people to come forward for the help,” Haskins said.
To volunteer or request volunteer help, contact Haskins at 218-206-9882. Douglas County flood victims in need of help can also call case manager Brenda Kohel at 715-392-5127, ext. 119. For more information on Flood Homes with Hope, go to www.floodhomeswithhope.org.