It was 3:30 a.m. when Charles Colley got the call. He and his family needed to evacuate their Midland rental home as soon as possible. The flood waters weren’t just on their way—they were here.
“It was a scary night,” Colley said. “My wife [then fiancé], our two daughters and I lived on a dead-end street, and it was going to flood. We made the trek through the woods carrying our belongings on our back with our three dogs.”
The water didn’t waste any time doing its damage.
“We had to walk through the woods because the water had already covered the road,” Colley said. “When we got to the other side of the road and looked back, we couldn’t even see our house because of the water. It was on top of the roof.”
The hits kept coming. He learned his business—Canine Cuts and Clips—was also devastated by the flood. The venue where he and his fiancé were supposed to get married was damaged.
In one night, Colley’s life completely changed.
He and his family stayed in a car for four days. His brother took them in for a few weeks.
“With no money, you don’t know where to go,” he said. “Luckily we found a friend with a house for rent, so we stayed there.”
Still, Colley and his family weren’t sure how to fix the damage to their former rental home and belongings. Everything was gone.
“We felt like nobody could help us,” Colley explained. “Our house was a rental, so FEMA denied us assistance.”
Then Colley called United Way of Midland County.
As part of the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Group (LTDRG), United Way of and numerous others are dedicated to connecting the community with the many resources available to those impacted by the flood.
“We are all stronger when we work together,” said Holly Miller, president and CEO of United Way of Midland County. “This work requires strong collaboration. It’s the entire community working together to fill gaps, solve problems and be there for each other. We have a long history of helping our community unite to improve lives.”
Colley got connected with Raegan Schultz, one of the Disaster Case Managers (DCMs) for the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Group. She listened to Colley’s situation. She stepped in to advocate and help navigate the recovery process with Colley. She also assisted with his application for an SBA loan for his small dog grooming business.
There’s not a lot of assistance for renters and limited assistance from FEMA, Schultz explained.
“Their FEMA assistance didn’t come through, so we made a funding request to the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Funding Group and they came through,” Schultz said. “It’s been powerful to see how resilient our neighbors are able to be. People don’t always realize how a community can step in to support its neighbors, but watching them receive it and feel so grateful—none of it is expected and it is so appreciated.”
Each week, the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Funding Group comes together to review specific requests and hear details from the DCMs about unmet needs for consideration. United Way and the Midland Area Community Foundation are the two key funders, but others help with clarifying questions, offering ideas as well as proving additional ideas and resources to ensure we are being strong stewards of community dollars.
Because of that collaboration, the LTDRG was able to provide life-changing resources and support. Funds from the Midland Area Community Foundation supported the Colley family with the purchase of essential household furniture (beds, mattresses, sofas, dining room set, etc.) and clothing for the family of four. Pivot Point, a local nonprofit ministry, provided the family with a stove and fridge.
United Way also connected the Colleys with the Bottomless Toy Chest organization—which provided holiday gifts for the family—and a generous Dow donation of winter coats and clothes.
Colley said he is so grateful for support from these organizations. He said without disaster case management, his family would be homeless.
“This was a life-saver,” Colley said. “If it wasn’t for Midland and the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Group, I don’t know what we’d do. They and United Way are an angel on someone’s shoulders. They aren’t doing anything for themselves. It’s all for the community.”
Nowadays, Colley said he has hope thanks to the community.
“It’s been amazing to have people help us out and know people care. We are feeling comfortable now and my kids have a place to sleep.”