Va. Beach homeowners get help after Matthew: ‘I’m thankful for everything’

Emma Gibson, who lost her home in Matthew, says she's thankful after having her home rebuilt.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — It’s hard to believe how far removed we are from Hurricane Matthew, more than 13 months now. Today U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner announced that the area will receive more than $2 million to fix local roads.

In Southampton County, a sinkhole formed on Route 58 after a 66-inch pipe broke — partly due to the storm. The road was closed in December of 2016 while crews replace the pipe.

This was one small example of the damage caused by Matthew’s outer bands. Roadways across the entire region were flooded as the storm passed offshore.

The scars remain for many homeowners as well, but there’s a group of volunteers, and a local church, that are still plugging away with help for residents in Virginia Beach.

The United Methodist Church plays an important role in the Tidewater Long Term Recovery Group. They are using grant money, and at no cost to homeowners, they rebuild what was lost.

13 months ago, Hurricane Matthew left behind flooding, devastation and broken lives, but not broken hope.

We went to the old United Methodist Church off Holland Road, where we found volunteer relief coordinator Michele Michaelian.

“I’m thankful for the city of Virginia Beach to work alongside of us to help us get these folks back in their homes,” Michaelian said.

Virginia Beach ponied up $300,000 and the United Methodist Church gave $360,000 in grant money to fund the home rebuilds.

Michaelian is not alone, 3,500 volunteers from across the country have slept, eaten, washed clothes and showered at the church, donating time to help people like Emma Gibson who lost her home in Matthew.

“I’m thankful for everything. I’m thankful for the church, for the people who have helped people who came in that I have never met before,” Gibson said.

The United Methodist Church is part of the Tidewater Long Term Recovery Group, and is the group restoring homes at no cost to homeowners.

“This is some of our volunteers in process of putting in pre-engineered flooring for these homeowners… here are the kitchen cabinets that have just gone in, and here they are putting in new counter tops,” said Construction Coordinator Chuck Rowley while pointing to pictures showing the volunteers at work.

Rowley was there helping out in Gibson’s home.

“The water came up to here,” Gibson said as she pointed to a spot about two feet above the floor. “They took all the carpeting out, and put in the flooring. They put all the lights in. These counter tops I didn’t have before, but I do now, and they put up all the cabinets.”

Disaster Response Coordinator Bob Pihlcrantz: “I am thankful for the people, and the volunteers with the church who came in here. They gave their time and talents to help Emma rebuild her life, and get on with this new start, and get on following the disaster.”

The group has put 24 families back in their homes, but still have 44 pending cases.

If you want to help contribute or volunteer your time email the group at


Video: Chopper 10 over flood damage caused by Hurricane Matthew


Photos: Matthew soaks Hampton Roads


10 On Your Side’s Brandi Cummings recently took a look back at Matthew’s impact: