The Bennett family is a tight knit group, but far from small. There are 9 children, 6 women and 3 men. Even those who've been around the family long enough are considered kin. All affectionately call 97 year-old Louise Chandler Bennett, "Momma" and are thankful for her new home. Momma just received the first so called, "stick built home" in the state, following the 2015 floods.
"Coming up she was a hard working woman," said Carl Anderson. He's the pastor at Greater Saint Stephen AME Church and State House Representative for District 103. "She taught her children the value of being together, helping each other and being a family."
The family lived in the same home on a rural Georgetown road since it was built it 1952. The house had three bedrooms, two baths and what the family describes as a large, inviting kitchen. It saw the births of several children, the rise and discipline of 9 teenagers, the destruction of Hurricane Hugo, the death of a father, and the declining health of its matriarch, Momma.
But it's robust history was no match for the 2015 floods. The water seeped in slowly, spreading room to room. By the time hurricane Matthew struck nearly a year later, termites had moved in. Momma, once wheelchair bound, was now confined to a hospital bed, but still living in that old house. The siblings took shifts to care for her.
"One day we were all sitting in the front," recalled her youngest, 56 year old Esther Green. "The representative from disaster was going house to house and they asked if they could inspect our house. From there on, it was one day at a time."
The house was torn down in February and Momma moved in with daughter Loretta Carson. Meantime, Pastor Anderson reached out for help. He found the family qualified for assistance through the South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office.
"This is the first one in the entire program built from the ground up, " said Benjamin Duncan, a spokesman with the recovery office. He says the program is for the state's most vulnerable, people like Louise Bennett, who are low income, disabled, 65 years-old and older, or those caring for children 5 years-old and younger.
"It really is a blessing," said daughter Regenia Russell, as she held back tears. "We couldn't have afforded it."
The new home has a wheelchair ramp winding up to its creme colored front door. It too has three bedrooms and two baths, just like the old one. But inside, there is the echo of empty rooms just waiting to be filled. The pastor laughs with Momma's three daughters who have accepted the keys. He wants to know when he will get his copy. A great grandson clings to grandma Esther. There's talk of old school, backyard brawls, future Sunday dinners and who will buy the blinds. Missing, however, is Momma.
"She would probably say, look where God has brought me from," said Esther. "From the water coming under the house, dripping through the ceiling and now she got a brand new house? Oh, I couldn't ask for anything more."
The family says Momma did not want to come to the grand opening that day. No one knows why, but then again, the daughters know better than to ask too many questions.
"She still have that right mind," said Regenia. "She will tell you exactly what she wants you to know, when she wants you to know it."
But daughter Loretta is excited to tell us, Momma has since moved in.
"She had a smile on her face and tears. It made us all so very happy."
The South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office says it still hopes to repair or replace 2,100 homes in 22 counties affected by the October 2015 floods. So far it has tackled 452 and expects construction to continue through 2019.
The deadline for applications was this spring, but if you'd like to learn more, go to http://www.scdr.sc.gov