Chapel Hill News

Carrboro residents helping families come home

Jose Lemus, a resident of Rocky Brook Mobile Home Park in Carrboro, connects new wiring in the bedroom of his family's trailer on July 31, 2013. Lemus was working under the direction of Brad Bonneville and Joe Brzoska, of Bonneville Electric, who are helping Lemus and two other families repair their flood-damaged homes.
Jose Lemus, a resident of Rocky Brook Mobile Home Park in Carrboro, connects new wiring in the bedroom of his family's trailer on July 31, 2013. Lemus was working under the direction of Brad Bonneville and Joe Brzoska, of Bonneville Electric, who are helping Lemus and two other families repair their flood-damaged homes. tgrubb@newsobserver.com

A group of eight to 10 volunteers, backed by a community of donors, is making life better for at least three families in Rocky Brook Mobile Home Park.

The families chosen for the project own their trailers, but the group eventually could help other residents who rent, said Brad Bonneville, owner of Bonneville Electric in Carrboro. Roughly two dozen trailers were condemned after the June 30 flooding, but town officials worked with the owners to cut that number by about half.

Bonneville said the project started when Josie Hartman, who lives on Old Pittsboro Street, went down the hill to find out what her neighbors needed; she realized many of them were already working on their homes.

Hartman started a list to find others who would be willing to help, and the effort snowballed.

So far, they’ve raised at least $10,000, a large part from the Friends of the Orange County Department of Social Services, Hartman said. But the town, its residents and its businesses also have been generous, she said.

Carrboro Fire Marshal Kent Squires offered to install free smoke detectors. Woodland Creek Apartments in Durham is donating stoves and refrigerators, and Lowe’s in Pittsboro is making free deliveries and discounting merchandise, neighbor Josie Hartman said.

Alderwoman Jacquelyn Gist, Town Manager David Andrews and many Carrboro businesses, including Beehive Hair Salon, Balloons & Tunes and Morningstar Storage, have helped, too, she said.

“It’s been incredible for me. The families are so appreciative, and it’s fun to do something to help people,” Hartman said.

But they need more hardware store gift cards, money and volunteers, she said. They were trying to bring in another five to eight professional carpenters Saturday.

“It will take a lot of building and a lot of building material to fix these trailers up,” Bonneville said.

He and employee Joe Brzoska are rewiring the trailers’ electrical systems and adding more outlets. Bonneville also is helping plan the reconstruction of floors, walls, fixtures and heating and air-conditioning systems.

Carrboro resident and electrician Jacques Menache is helping with the plans and also coordinating the necessary permits, he said. Bonneville’s wife, Christine, is helping raise money and volunteers.

The homeowners are pitching in, too.

Jose Lemus and his wife lived at Lot 14 until the floodwaters rose 10 feet and forced them to flee their home June 30. Friends and family are giving them a place to stay and helping them rehabilitate their home, he said. Last week, he was helping Bonneville and Brzoska rewire the couple’s bedroom.

The work will take a few months, Bonneville said. When it’s finished, the trailers will meet modern housing codes, instead of less-strict U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rules, he said. The work is tricky because the walls are thin and regular electric boxes don’t fit, he said. Their company primarily deals with commercial projects and older home renovations and remodels, he said.

“We know that this place got destroyed,” Brzoska said. “We just wanted to help.”

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