Helping hands Louisiana group ‘an answer to prayers’

Published 11:45 am Monday, June 20, 2011

Diana and Guy Creekmore went to the Salvation Army one day looking for supplies to clean out their Chickasaw Road home, which took on more than 4 feet of water during the Mississippi River Flood of 2011.

They returned to their cypress home with more help than they thought.

At the Salvation Army, the Creekmores met Will Butterfield and a group of nine teens from the Gathering Place, a Baptist church in Pineville, La., who had come to Vicksburg looking for someone to help.

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“They were the answer to our prayers, and we were the answer to theirs,” Diana Creekmore said.

Butterfield and his group went to see the damage at the Creekmore house with promises to return once the waters receded.

On Saturday, Butterfield, the teens and two other adults returned to Chickasaw ready to gut the Creekmores’ cypress house.

“We knew that they would really need help once the water went down,” said Butterfield. “We’ve been praying since the fall about where to go on a mission trip and when the flooding started, we figured this was what we’ve been waiting for.”

The Mississippi River at Vicksburg was at 39.9 feet this morning, continuing on its steady fall since a record crest at 57.1 feet on May 19. The flood officially ended Thursday when the river at Vicksburg dipped below the 43-foot flood stage for the first time since May 1.

For 26 days during that time, water stood still in the Creekmores’ home that sits on stilts 10 feet off the ground and had never taken on river water before.

Butterfield and his group planned to be at the Creekmores’ through Tuesday, ripping up carpet and tearing down walls to prepare the house for repairs.

“I thought I would be too small and wouldn’t be any use out here,” said 16-year-old Hannah Kenimer, while carrying soggy wood paneling to be thrown away. “But I was able to do a lot more than I thought I would.”

Hannah is one of five girls and four boys ages 16 to 13 who are taking out flooring to ripping down ceiling tiles.

“I’m girly and I didn’t expect to be good at this,” Hannah said. “But it is rewarding and I know they appreciate it.”

Ariel Quartemont, 15, also was better at hands-on labor than she thought she would be.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Ariel said. “It’s very hot out here but I’ve loved doing this. I’ve never been around anything like it before, but we’re just blessed to be a part of it.”

Diana and Guy Creekmore, both 68 and retired since 2004 — he from Kansas City Southern and she from Harrah’s Casino — are thrilled with the work.

“They’re just awesome,” Diana Creekmore said. “I knew kids could do more work than they’re given credit for, but I never knew kids could work like this. I’m very proud of them.”

She said she has no idea of when she and her husband will be able to move back into their home, but for now, she is grateful for the help.

“We’re blessed to have them and they’ve been a lifesaver,” she said. “This would have taken months without them.”

Carrie Grace Austin, a 13-year-old working with the group, admired the Creekmores’ courage throughout the flood experience, and was inspired to work harder.

“I really wouldn’t know what to do if something like this happened to my house,” Carrie Grace said. “It feels good to help them because they deserve it.”

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” said Creekmore. “I didn’t understand that phrase until now, but things like this can bring out the good in people.”