Stephanie Flores: ‘I can’t ask for anything more’ -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Stephanie Flores: ‘I can’t ask for anything more’

Stephanie Flores, who works for the county school district, has two sons: Vincent, 15, and Mario, 18.

Like many longtime residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Stephanie Flores didn’t sufficiently fear Hurricane Katrina.

“I just didn’t believe it was going to happen,” she said. “Before we finally evacuated, I cleaned the house and washed my clothes. I thought, ‘We’re just going to go on a little trip and then we’ll come back home. I’ll be ready for work Monday.’ ”

She didn’t pack anything other than the essentials for a short road trip, and so she and her two sons—Mario, now 18, and Vincent, 15––lost everything when the storm hit Pearlington, Mississippi.

As part of the 2008 Carter Work Project, the Flores family will be moving into their new Habitat home in the Diamondhead community of Hancock County, just a few miles from the middle school where Flores works as a Compass Learning Lab manager.

“I’m constantly passing by all the Habitat houses that are built, just dreaming about how to decorate,” Flores said, laughing.

Youngest son Vincent already has plans to cover the walls of his room with sports paraphernalia. “I like LSU,” he said. “And the Saints.”

Mario was deeply affected by Katrina, his mother says.

“He watches the news all the time now,” she said. “He lets me know whenever a storm is coming. He’s really worried.”

Until their home is built, the Flores family has returned to their rented house in Pearlington, which has only been partially repaired since Katrina.

“It gives us something to look forward to,” Flores said, laughing at her ability to look on the bright side. “I feel blessed,” she added. “I can’t ask for anything more.”

Vincent, meanwhile, is eagerly waiting for May to arrive, when he will turn 16--old enough to help on the Habitat construction site.

“It teaches you things for when you get older,” he said of the anticipated experience. “It teaches you about helping others.”

Affiliate Information:
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi: 41 houses for Carter Project 2008

Hancock County in southwestern Mississippi bore the full fury of Hurricane Katrina when it made landfall on Aug. 29, 2005, at high tide. A storm surge of 30 feet nearly obliterated the thriving coastal communities of Bay St. Louis and Waveland.

Two and a half years later, the extent of the damage is still breathtaking. The tortuously slow process of rebuilding is most striking in Waveland, where newly constructed million-dollar homes sit beside unpaved roads. Flat portable septic tanks in the front yards attest to just how much work remains to be done on the infrastructure.

“It has taken a horrific toll on the people here,” said Wendy McDonald, executive director of Bay-Waveland Habitat for Humanity. She points to a partially rebuilt, abandoned house: “See that house? You can tell they started rebuilding but ran out of money … or gave up hope.”

Bay-Waveland HFH was formally incorporated in January 2008, but staff members and volunteers had already built 50 houses as part of a special disaster recovery project based at Metro Jackson HFH. Moving forward, the Bay-Waveland affiliate has set the goal of building 40 houses a year.

For this year’s Carter Project, the affiliate will build houses with 41 families.