It took about two hours for Milton Williamson’s home of 42 years to be ruined by floodwaters.
“In the space of two hours, we went from no water (in the house) to about three feet. It was like a dam had opened,” Williamson recalled.
Like many of their neighbors in Denham Springs, La., Williamson and his wife were forced from their home as heavy rains led to catastrophic flooding across the state in August.
Thanks in part to a grant from The American Legion’s National Emergency Fund (NEF), the Williamsons are back home.
Since its creation in 1989, the NEF has awarded over $9 million to Legion family members and posts.
Flooding this year in Louisiana, West Virginia, South Carolina, Illinois and Texas, and wildfires in California, have been the biggest factors in NEF grants in 2016. From Sept. 1 through Oct. 7, $94,705 in NEF grants were approved.
The Williamsons spent about two months living in a furnished rental cabin in an RV park about 20 miles away. While they received financial assistance through FEMA—Livingston Parish, where they live, was one of 20 Louisiana parishes declared federal disaster areas in the wake of the floods—the money went quickly.
“The amount FEMA allotted was used up in a month,” Williamson said.
A member of Post 38 in Baton Rouge, Williamson said he wasn’t aware of the NEF until receiving an email about it from the Legion.
“We had no shortage of documentation (to apply for the grant),” Williamson said. “We’re extremely grateful for that amount of money. It was most helpful at a time when we had everything going out and nothing really coming in.”
While Williamson is retired, his wife is a nurse who had to return to work after taking about a week off after the Aug. 13 flood. Having the NEF grant to help pay for some expenses helped the Williamson's find a way to replace the vehicle they lost to the floodwaters.
“It helped cover for a great extent, the lodging expenses,” Williamson said. “We got out of (our house) with the clothes on our back, prescription medicines, a small dog, that was pretty much it. … We could not have spread the emergency cash funds as far as we had without the grant from the National Emergency Fund. It came at a most needed time, and we are most extremely grateful for it.”
The Williamsons have had to buy new clothing, furniture and appliances, and had to cope with the loss of 42 years of memories destroyed in the flood.
They moved back in to their “reinhabitable” home about two weeks ago, but there’s still a lot of work ahead.
“We’re still with tile floors. We are living kind of roughly, no kitchen cabinets, no bathroom cabinets,” he said. “The bottom line, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”
The National Emergency Fund, created in response to Hurricane Hugo in 1989, has provided more than $8 million in direct financial assistance to American Legion family members and posts. By providing this emergency funding, the NEF has prevented damaged posts from closing and enabled American Legion family members to recover from tragedy.
The fund provides up to $3,000 for qualified Legion family members and up to $10,000 for posts. The eligibility requirements are:
1. Applicant must have been displaced from his or her primary residence due to a declared natural disaster.
2. Applicant must provide copies of receipts of items required to meet immediate needs such as temporary housing, food, water, clothing, diapers, etc.
3. Membership must be active at time of disaster and the time of application.
For information about how to donate to the NEF, or to seek assistance, go to www.legion.org/emergency.