Echo Valley, Inc. Renovates Home Ravaged by Katrina
Echo Valley, Inc., a Fairmont, W.Va. builder, was honored by the National Housing Endowment — the philanthropic arm of NAHB — for rebuilding a home in Biloxi, Miss. that was gutted by Hurricane Katrina.
Echo Valley, headed by Billy Gene Pickrell, completely renovated the home of 65-year-old Dorothy Deshauteurs in January 2006. By the time they finished rebuilding the house, it was in better shape than it was before the storm. All expenses for the renovation were paid for through community donations or by the team of Echo Valley volunteers who worked on the house.
In addition, the team, along with other members of the Home Builders Association of West Virginia, returned to Biloxi a year later to help other victims of Hurricane Katrina rebuild their homes.
Echo Valley was awarded the 2006 Honorable Mention Hurricane Katrina Relief National Housing Endowment Builder Achievement Award for Outstanding Community Service — which includes a $1,000 donation to be given to the charity of its choice. Echo Valley received the award during the 2007 International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Fla. earlier this year.
Echo Valley gave the donation to the HBA’s charitable fund to help other hurricane victims in Biloxi.
Springing Into Action
Pickrell began looking for ways to help the victims of the hurricane soon after it made landfall because he knew, firsthand, how devastating a storm could be. His family home in West Virginia was swept off its foundation by flood waters in 1950 and his parents struggled to “get their house back up.”
“There was no help out there back then,” said Pickrell. “I know what suffering my mom and dad went through.”
When Katrina struck, Pickrell quickly raised funds, gathered together a group of volunteers and headed to Biloxi to help get the people there back into their homes. Working through a clergyman, he was able to help Deshauteurs, who he found living near the shell of her gutted home.
According to Deshauteurs, the pastor had promised her that he would find some help, but then he headed overseas to do some charitable work.
“I said, ‘Yeah, all right — out of sight, out of mind,’” Deshauteurs recalled. “Months later, a big caravan of trucks showed up in front of my house.”
Pickrell got out of one of the trucks, came up to Deshauteurs and said, “Come show me what we’re up against,”
“He went outside and he lost it. He lost it,” Deshauteurs said. “Then he came back in and said, ‘Okay boys, let’s get to work.’”
“I just wasn’t ready to see all the devastation,” Pickrell said.
Deshauteurs and Pickrell have remained friends since he and his team of volunteers rebuilt her home that January. She proudly displays a West Virginia state flag his team gave her after the renovation was completed. “It’s something we did to make West Virginia part of Biloxi and Biloxi a part of West Virginia,” Pickrell said.
Pickrell said he and the West Virginia HBA plan to continue the January tradition of helping those in need, though he’s not sure he will be back in Biloxi next January. He said he’ll go wherever conditions are the worst.
“We want to help people who have suffered through a disaster, people who don’t have a roof over their heads and need help,” Pickrell said.
“The National Housing Endowment is proud to honor the tremendous charity of Echo Valley,” said Gary Garczynski, endowment chairman and 2002 NAHB president. “The massive devastation that Katrina left behind was overwhelming and it was only through the charitable hearts of people like those who make up Echo Valley that some families were able to make it through. They are a source of inspiration — and honored members — of our organization and industry.”
Twelve Others Honored With Builder Achievement Awards at IBS
Twelve other builders were honored with gold, silver, bronze and honorable mention Builder Achievement awards during the presentation at the builders’ show.
For the complete list of the winners and a description of their projects, click here.
The awards were established through a grant to the endowment by Isaac Heimbinder, chairman of Potomac, Md.-based BuildTopia, a provider of Web-based construction management software for home builders.
For more information on this award, visit www.nahb.org.