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You can’t get any closer to God

 

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Stacey Loftin stands on the porch of her “green superhouse,” built to the highest levels of energy efficiency and environmental sustainability, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Bay-Waveland Area.

   

Stacey Loftin and her three children live in a “green superhouse,” built in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Bay-Waveland Area to the highest eco-friendly and energy-efficient standards. Among the house features: heat-reflective, hurricane-resistant Galvalume roofing made of mostly recycled content; dual panel windows; and low-emission paints, caulks and adhesives.

Loftin, 35, is a veterinarian’s assistant born and raised in Bay St. Louis. She and her three children—daughters Jordan, 16, and Kirsten, 14, and son C.J., 9—survived a harrowing encounter with Hurricane Katrina, as they tried to ride out the storm in her grandmother’s house.

“My Mawmaw didn’t want to leave, so we stayed with her,” Loftin said. “Her house is at the highest point in Bay St. Louis, and it made it through Camille. If Katrina had come in at low tide, we would have been fine.”

Katrina made landfall at high tide, though, and the water started coming in the back door.

“It was starting to get higher and higher, so we started loading everybody up in the attic,” Loftin recalled. Along with Loftin and her three children, her mother, her brother, her sister-in-law, her aunt, her aunt’s Yorkie and her brother’s two Labradors ended up seeking refuge in Mawmaw’s attic.

“I looked around and saw my girls sitting there spooked,” Loftin said. “My son was sitting in my mother’s lap, and she was rocking him. My eyes started watering up. If we had to break through the roof, how was I going to swim with three kids? And my mom can’t swim. Who would I lose? I turned my back to them and said to myself, ‘You can’t think like that.’ I stood there holding a hammer and I prayed.

“Next thing I knew, the water started subsiding.”

After the storm, Loftin found little to salvage when she returned to the two-bedroom home she and her kids shared. The entire complex was destroyed.

They were issued a FEMA trailer, parked on the lawn of her mother’s house, and that’s where they spent the next two years. Eventually, her mother’s house was repaired enough for them to move in with her temporarily.

“We had stayed sick the whole time we were in that FEMA trailer,” she said. “We called it our compartment or our tuna can.”

Sharing her mother’s house was healthier, but even more crowded, as Loftin’s brother and pregnant sister-in-law were forced to move in when their house was condemned. “It was pretty stressful,” Loftin said.

About that time, Loftin ran into Wendy McDonald, her former high school teacher who now is executive director of Bay-Waveland Habitat for Humanity. McDonald encouraged her to apply for a Habitat home.

“I’m still kind of shocked and overwhelmed,” said Loftin, who qualified for homeownership, earned her sweat equity and moved her family into a home at the corner of Cadillac and Lincoln streets late in 2009.

“All I asked God was, ‘Please let us move in by Christmas. Please let us be in our home for Christmas.’ They called from Habitat and told me I would be closing the Monday before Christmas.”

Loftin’s oldest daughter, Jordan, plays softball on the school team, and Kirsten is on the Tigerettes dance team and also plays volleyball and soccer. Little brother C.J. plays baseball and football.

The family basks in the breathing room of a three-bedroom house with a spacious front porch and old-fashioned sitting steps. Loftin has dubbed a small screened alcove on the side of the house her “serenity porch.”

She also likes to unwind outside, tending to her corner lot, stocked with low-maintenance native plants.

“You can’t get any closer to God,” she said. “It’s the closest I can get to him, being outside on a day like this, feeling the sun on my face.”