A Mother and her Daughter

HURRICANE MICHAEL ONE YEAR LATER

Rhonda and Betty

Oct 21, 2019

A month after Hurricane Michael made landfall on October 10, 2018, The Sonder Project received a phone call from Tonya Hall, a residential nurse and Panama City resident. During the phone call, Tonya told us about a client of hers in desperate need of help. Tonya had recently dropped by her client’s home, and it was as though the storm had hit just yesterday.

Tonya’s client was Rhonda, a 49-year-old who, by any measure, has had a difficult road to travel. Five years earlier, Rhonda had been paralyzed from the chest down during a domestic dispute. Her injuries eventually caused her to lose custody of her nine-year-old daughter and forced her to move in with her 84-year-old mother, Betty. Betty was – and still is – struggling to provide all the support her daughter needs, so Tonya’s care as a residential nurse is of critical importance for both mother and daughter. 

By October of 2018, Betty’s and Rhonda’s home had been in the family for 34 years. Rhonda’s father, who passed away in 2005, had worked hard throughout his life, both as a sheet metal worker and as a gas station attendant, to ensure his family would always have a roof over their heads. Thirteen years after his death, along came Hurricane Michael. As the storm approached the Florida panhandle, Rhonda, Betty. and their family home were in serious jeopardy.

Rhonda was at home with her mom on October 10, 2018. She was in bed as the storm raged all around them, finally dropping a massive tree limb onto the house. With the roof structurally compromised, the ceiling began to cave in right above Rhonda’s bed. Betty helped her paralyzed daughter to the floor so she could crawl across the house to safety. Together, mother and daughter weathered the storm. The hurricane passed, leaving their devastated home in its wake.

Fast-forward a month.

This is when Tonya Hall paid a visit to check on Rhonda and Betty. The house, Tonya saw, was still a mess. Trees were down all over the yard and the ceiling caved in, with insulation and electrical wires exposed everywhere. Water damage had created weak spots in the subfloor, eventually developing into massive holes covered only by the mildewed carpet. Rhonda and Betty had paid a company to place a tarp over their roof, but the work was shoddy and the charges excessive. And they were now limited in their ability to seek help. They simply didn’t know where to turn.

That’s when Tonya called us.

The day after the call from Tonya, The Sonder Project had a team of volunteers clearing out Rhonda’s and Betty’s yard. We’ve since replaced their roof, rehung their ceiling drywall, and replaced the failed sub-floor and carpet throughout the home. Thanks to the support of our donors, we were able to restore the home Rhonda’s father had worked so hard to maintain. 

This month marks the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael’s landfall in Panama City. We’ve come a long way in the recovery, but we have a long way to go. Today we’re asking that you join us in our Anniversary Campaign so that we may continue to help households like those of Rhonda and Betty.