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Cedar Rapids, Iowa, resident Lisa Gavin always took care of things on her own.

“I’ve never been in a position where I had to ask people for help,” says Lisa, an Iowa native who purchased her Cedar Rapids home in 2001.

Then came the June 2008 flooding in Cedar Rapids. It damaged more than 5,000 homes in the area, including the one occupied by Lisa and her 7-year-old son. That is when she discovered that support from her community would be crucial to their recovery.

The first thing they needed was emotional support. Lisa and her neighbors cried on each other’s shoulders and offered encouragement. Later, after some time had passed, they confided in each other about the anxiety they felt whenever the area experienced heavy rain.

Neighbors also provided help in other ways. People in homes with power let neighbors run extension cords to use the electricity. Lisa borrowed a neighbor’s generator to run equipment that removed water from her house. Another neighbor shared hot water with everyone who needed it.

Lisa, in turn, let neighbors use her washer and dryer once power was restored in her home and she had replaced the appliances.

Getting back to a normal life also required a lot of cash.

Lisa’s to-do list included repairing or replacing walls, doors, basement stairs, ductwork, a furnace, a water heater, the washer and dryer, and the porch. Repairs alone would cost her about $25,000. She would need to spend at least $13,000 more for changes she wanted to make to help prevent future flooding.

Lisa had homeowners insurance. But the flooding invalidated any coverage for damage to her home and its contents. She would have needed flood insurance to cover that damage.

Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief aid covered some of the costs. It was not nearly enough, however, to pay for all of the repairs.

Fortunately for Lisa, the state created a housing program called Jumpstart for those affected by the flood. Lisa was one of more than 1,600 people who applied. The program reimbursed her for her basement flood prevention improvements.

Lisa also borrowed from her parents. She realizes that this is an option many people do not have. For them, having other resources to fall back on is even more critical. Heartland Disaster Help is one way to find local sources of support.

Lisa says the 2008 flood taught her that she is more resilient than she thought. She also was inspired by the help and support she received. Today, her work as an attorney focuses on helping other people who experience natural disasters.

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