Family home in Denham Springs renovated by volunteers after 2016 flood

New Livingston home

DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) - In the heart of Denham Springs, down a small dirt road, is a family home that’s seen its share of heartache.

“Wasn’t anything but studs and concrete and the concrete was messed up,” said longtime Denham Springs resident, Teressa Smith.

Smith thought there was no way to bounce back after 8 feet of water made its way into Teressa and Donna Bell’s home on the morning of August 13. “I stepped off the bed and when I did, I was ankle deep in water,” Teressa said. “ I started walking through the house and I was wading.”

They thought the tough part was behind them, but that’s about the time a few questionable contractors crossed their path. “I hired one, gave him $18,700 and he runs off with my money,” Teressa said.

“A lot of people came and said they were going to help us. It was empty promises,” said Teressa’s daughter, Donna.

Since then, they’ve been living out of a trailer that’s walking distance from their family home. It’s a tight squeeze for Donna, a quadriplegic. “For two years we’ve lived in a trailer,” Donna said. “I just got my wheelchair and I haven’t been able to use it like I wanted to.”

But it wasn’t until Teressa came into contact with Peter Salemme from The Fuller House that after two years of waiting, their old house was given new life. Salemme says they offered to build a brand new home for the family, but the Bells opted to renovate the space instead since it was their family home. He says during the renovation, they lowered the counters, widened the doorway, and made the floors easier for Donna to travel on.

“We pride ourselves in doing what we say, that’s what we’re going to do,” Salemme said. “So we said, ‘We’re going to fix your house.’ We fixed her house.”

“It’s like a different house,” Donna said. “I could never picture it like this. It’s just beautiful.”

The mother daughter duo says they’re thankful complete strangers walked into their lives and turned it around. “I wish I could do what they do,” Teressa said. “I wish I could get out and do and go and help people as they do.”

Although some parts still need a little work, the brand new kitchen and decked out bedrooms make up for that. Countless volunteers working long hours made it happen. “He had a vision that we couldn’t see. We’re so grateful for everybody,” Donna said.

“When you go out and serve others, it’s different. I don’t know how to describe it. I only want to encourage people... try it,” Salemme said.

“All of these people, they not making any money. They’re doing it out of the goodness of their heart. It’s amazing. It’s really amazing,” Teressa said.

So now, down that small dirt road, is a family home that’s heart is pretty much healed.

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