Published on July 13, 2021 in Crisis and Recovery
Julie Sexton is not used to asking for help.
The mom of seven, who has a background in ministry, is more comfortable helping others. But the recent heavy rains that caused major flooding across Southeastern Michigan left Julie’s family in dire need of assistance.
“At one point, water was coming up out of the floor drain and pouring out of the toilet in our basement,” she said. “It’s a helpless feeling — like what do you do? You just have to try and save what you can.”
When the storm was over, eight inches of rainwater and sewage covered the entire lower level of the family’s Garden City home. Julie and her husband Aaron turned to the Here to Help Foundation for support.
With funding from United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s newly launched Crisis and Recovery Fund, Here to Help was able to provide new carpeting and four new dressers for Julie’s family within weeks.
Building on our century of work to help meet the needs of families across Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, the Crisis and Recovery Fund will support families affected by the recent flood and ensure dollars, volunteers and staff are able to respond quickly to help the community navigate any crisis.
The fund was made possible thanks to the generous support of philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, who gifted a $25 million grant to United Way for Southeastern Michigan in 2020 to address immediate community need due to the pandemic and systemic inequities exposed and deepened by the crisis.
For families that may have already been struggling financially or exhausted some savings due to the pandemic’s economic impacts, unexpected challenges like June’s catastrophic floods can easily throw them into crisis. The crisis fund will ensure that help is available immediately to families in need.
Julie was astonished by the speed of the help she received. She applied for assistance on a Saturday and by the following Wednesday, dressers were being delivered and her home was being measured for carpet installation.
“We felt we had somebody in our corner,” she said. “Someone was helping us out. And they weren’t judging us at all.”
Bob Schwartz, CEO of Here to Help, said it would have been impossible for his organization to aid families impacted by the flood without the additional funding from United Way.
“United Way has been a great partner for us,” Bob said. His organization, which has served the community since 2007, offers a variety of programs to aid with utilities, car repairs, housing and other emergency needs. It also recently launched a program for returning citizens.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and now again through the flooding emergency, Here to Help is coming through with support for people during incredibly difficult times,” said Sara Gold, senior director, Health and Basic Needs at United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “Our partners and our own 2-1-1 community care advocates refer people to Here to Help because they know that they’re available to provide quick and meaningful support. Very few organizations can provide flexible, direct financial assistance, and our community continues to benefit from their work.”
When Bob saw the thousands of families across the region dealing with flood damage, he didn’t hesitate to get involved.
“We saw the need and jumped to the forefront to help,” he said.
Although his organization does not typically provide appliances, it’s using the United Way grant to help with hot water heaters, furnaces, washing machines and other items rendered useless by floodwaters.
Julie’s family was fortunate to have insurance to cover many of the major items, but she’s thankful for the extra help.
“No one expects to go to bed and wake up in the middle of the night with $15,000 worth of damage. When that happens, it’s life changing. It’s devastating,” she said.
For now, Julie’s family, which includes five biological children and two foster children they hope to soon adopt, is cramped into close quarters on the main level of their home while the three basement bedrooms are rebuilt. Even while clammy from the lack of air conditioning and with her bed in the middle of the living room floor while being hit with a barrage of child-size requests – from books to juice – Julie is still thinking about helping others.
“When we get back on our feet, I really would love to donate to Here to Help and United Way to pay forward their kindness so that they can help more people when they need it,” she said.