Catholic Charities, Mennonites rebuild flood destroyed homes in Jamestown
Two victims of the 2013 Colorado flood fought back tears as they joined friends and volunteers of disaster relief services for a blessing ceremony over the houses they could finally call “home.”
It took more than two years, a flock of volunteers and a partnership between Catholic Charities of Denver and Mennonite Disaster Services before Nancy Farmer and her neighbor Karen Zupco could walk into their new houses.
“I’m so blown away that people would do this,” said Nancy Farmer, the recipient of a yellow ranch house nestled in the mountains of Jamestown, about 12 miles from Boulder. “It’s been so incredible. I feel so blessed.”
More than a new roof over their heads, volunteers from disaster recovery services gave the two women something irreplaceable—a renewed sense of hope.
“I think God has his hand (in this),” said Jeff Koller of the Mennonite Disaster Services, during the ceremony. “It’s not just about these houses, but about building spirit and community.”
Geoff Bennet, vice president of Catholic Charities, said, “We’ve been waiting for this day. It’s almost the culmination of everyone’s dreams and efforts. What an honor it is to be able to help.”
During the ceremony Feb. 24 in Jamestown, the group offered thanks to God and prayed that Farmer and Zupco’s new houses would become places of love.
In September 2013, the two women were among the thousands who lost their homes during the heavy rains and catastrophic flooding that damaged 19,000 structures across 24 counties from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. Boulder County was one of the hardest hit. Three residents were killed, 262 homes were destroyed and nearly 300 more damaged. Almost the entire community was forced to relocate, including Farmer and Zupco.
In Jamestown, roads were washed out and buildings destroyed by a combination of flooding and mud from the rising waters of James Creek and Little Jim Creek that flow through town.
“It just came pouring down,” said Farmer, recalling the day the flood hit her home. “It was a wall of water.”
Over three days, two surges of rising water took out her porch then swept away her music room and bedrooms. Eventually, nothing was left on Farmer’s property. The flood split Zupco’s home in half.
The town invited Mennonite Disaster Services to rebuild the damaged homes. However, funding began to dry up and the project faced an abrupt end, Koller said. Then, Catholic Charities heard about it. Catholic Charities of Denver applied to Catholic Charities USA for additional flood relief funding. The funds were granted and the Mennonites’ project continued.
“This would not be here without you folks,” Koller said to Catholic Charities staff, including Diane Elio, who manages Catholic Charities’ emergency assistance and disaster recovery services. “It’s been a wonderful relationship up to this point.”
Volunteers from Germany, Canada, India and Ohio gathered for the ceremony. Father Vittorio Boria of Catholic Charities led the group in prayer and sprinkled holy water inside the two homes. A Mennonite staff member led the group in singing “My life flows on.”
The two women posed for photos and hugged others to share their gratitude.
“I had no idea how much this would bring people together,” Farmer said.
Zupco looked at her house under construction and said, “I see the house coming close (to finishing), and it’s unbelievable. These are all wonderful people.”
The Jamestown project
Number of homes: 2
Number of volunteers: 687
Catholic Charities funding: $400,000