In May, aging dams failed throughout a river system in Michigan, forcing more than 10,000 people to evacuate their homes and businesses to escape massive flooding.
When the dams broke, lakes emptied, flooding thousands of structures in the state, including formerly beautiful lakefront homes. No one died, but the physical destruction was extensive.
Daniel Buzzell, owner of Ace Hardware & Sports in Midland, Michigan, had an employee whose home filled with water to its first-floor ceiling.
Buzzell saw the ravages of Hurricane Katrina in 2006 when he did volunteer work in Louisiana, and the flooding in Michigan left damage that looked similar to him.
Ace Hardware & Sports was untouched, so Buzzell felt an obligation to help the people who were sorting through the wreckage of their homes. They were gutting the buildings and trying to work with insurance companies to figure out if damages from the disaster would be covered.
Buzzell had seen the need for drywall in hurricane-damaged homes 14 years ago, so he asked his distributor for help buying a truckload of drywall to give to homeowners in Michigan.
“A lot of people are just rebuilding on their own without insurance money,” Buzzell says. “We’re trying to do something that helps alleviate the cost somewhat.”
He ordered 1,156 sheets of drywall, working with his distributor to buy it at half the typical cost so he could double the amount the store could donate.
A local United Way case manager is working with a construction company to evaluate homes ready for the drywall and supply it to the owners.
“We have been fortunate that we have been an essential business and have been profitable through the entire pandemic,” Buzzell says. “We realized we needed to step up and do more. We felt a sense of responsibility, and the drywall fits a very specific, timely need.