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Hurricane Katrina survivor moves in to Habitat for Humanity duplex

Hurricane Katrina survivor moves in to Habitat for Humanity duplex
Originally published November 29, 2011

By Stephanie Mlot
News-Post Staff


Over the last six years, Deborah Gilbert’s life transformed from a disaster to a miracle to a blessing.

In 2005, Gilbert stuffed a backpack full of her remaining possessions and left her New Orleans home after the city was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Frantic to find a new place to restart her life, she flew from a Texas airport to Maryland, where a friend offered an open room.

It didn’t take long for Gilbert to fall in love with the area. With support from some local friends, she has been living in Frederick County ever since — for a year in the Ballenger Creek apartment complex, and then for the past five years in Middletown.

“I love it,” she said. “I have truly (fallen) in love with Maryland.”

Supported by what Gilbert calls her two families — her church family and her Habitat family — she wasn’t surprised by the attendance at the dedication of her new home Sunday afternoon.

About 70 people filled the backyard of Gilbert’s new house, which was built by Habitat for Humanity volunteers. The nonprofit organization was well represented this weekend; about half of the crowd was composed of Habitat volunteers, employees and members of the board of directors.

The rest were mostly Gilbert’s family and friends, joining in what Gilbert said was an experience in which she wanted everybody to be a part.

“It’s a long time coming,” she said of the Habitat process, from her application in fall 2006 to receiving the house keys over the weekend.

Habitat for Humanity applicants must meet certain income guidelines, according Ron Cramer, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Frederick County.

The person must also have lived in Frederick County for at least one year and must be in need of housing due to inadequate living conditions.

Gilbert’s home, a duplex on Madison Street in Frederick, marked Habitat for Humanity’s 32nd dedication in the county. Construction on the two-floor, three-bedroom house began a year ago this weekend. Volunteer crews worked “through the bitter cold and snow” last winter, Cramer said, “shoveling (snow) off of the house just to be building other sections on.”

Gilbert’s new dup.

Deborah Gilbert displays the keys to her new home Sunday afternoon at 338 Madison St., Frederick. Habitat for Humanity of Frederick County built the duplex.