MUNSTER | Throughout the fall and winter, volunteers rebuilt the DeMars family home after September 2008 floods destroyed the original house. On Wednesday, many of these same volunteers joined hands to encircle the new home as part of a house blessing.
The home on Broadmoor Avenue next to South Side Christian Church was the first rebuild organized by the Lakeshore Area Regional Recovery of Indiana, said Jane Delligatti, the organization's director.
Steve Conger, the organization's board president and pastor of Ridge United Methodist Church, delivered the house blessing.
"This is not only a home, but a symbol of hope," Conger said.
Sherry and Chuck DeMars moved into their new three-bedroom house several weeks ago along with their 13-year-old golden retriever, Benny. Construction labor was donated, and Home Depot provided building materials at a substantial cost savings, Delligatti said.
Faith-based groups volunteering included the Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Amish/Mennonite Men of Nappanee. Ten Americorps volunteers, ages 18 to 24, worked on the home, as did teams from Habitat for Humanity, University of Chicago chapter. Delligatti also thanked trade union members who volunteered their labor, including plumbers, carpenters, electricians and HVAC technicians.
"The Brethren and the union members stood shoulder to shoulder and raised the roof," she said.
"This was an endeavor of love."
Standing in the kitchen of her home surrounded by family and friends, Sherry DeMars said it's been a long 16 months since the flood.
In the early morning hours of Sept. 14, 2008, floodwaters from the Little Calumet River caved in the original home's basement wall. Soon, the walls bowed, and it became a race to save anything they could and escape from the home they bought 10 years before.
"They gave us four hours to get everything out because they were afraid the house would collapse," she said.
The couple's insurance company, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and town officials declared the original home uninhabitable and in need of demolition. That occurred last summer. Construction on the new home began Sept. 17, 2009.
Now that the DeMarses are settled in, the home will be the scene of several family celebrations, including Christmas 2010 with 75 guests, Sherry DeMars said.
"Thank you for all you've done for us," she told the dozens of people gathered outside the home to join in the house blessing. "It's amazing."