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Habitat for Humanity helps La Valle apartments damaged in flood

December 12, 2018 GMT

LA VALLE — Central Park Apartments manager Charity Sobeck gets emotional when she talks about how the last four months have been since the 2018 floods swept through the region.

During the two weeks of flooding in late August and early September, about 25 feet of water rushed through the village of La Valle. One to two feet of water stood in the building, said Manager Rockie Sobeck, who is also Charity’s husband.

Water damaged almost everything inside the apartment, requiring installation of two to four feet of drywall, new carpet, refrigerators and hot water heaters. Several volunteer groups helped with the effort. Owned by the village of La Valle, Central Park Apartments contains eight units to house low-income seniors.

Currently, residents are living with family or renting a place, Charity Sobeck said. Helping them move out after the flood was an emotional moment for her.

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“It was so hard to see people move,” she said. “I was baffled.”

Even more emotional was figuring out rebuilding efforts at the lowest possible costs with bids ranging from $134,000 to $184,000. Charity Sobeck said since the building doesn’t sit in a flood plain, there wasn’t any insurance to help with costs.

“I didn’t know what we were going to do,” Charity Sobeck said. “We didn’t have the finances to do everything and I had called so many places and so many places had told me no.”

When Habitat for Humanity Wisconsin River Area Executive Director Eleanor Chiquoine heard Charity Sobeck was having a hard time finding help she, reached out to ask what needed to be done. Chiquoine said the local Habitat for Humanity put some of its other projects on hold, including building a house in Baraboo, to help with efforts in La Valle for three weeks installing by trim, cabinets and hanging doors.

Since the end of November, an average of 10-12 volunteers have worked at the site. In addition, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students from that Habitat for Humanity chapter have helped. the latest group was there Dec. 9 and 10. Habitat for Humanity is scheduled to work at the apartments Dec. 13-15 and complete it Dec. 21.

While some work still has to be contracted out, like plumbing and electrical, volunteers have helped cut total estimated costs to about $75,000 to $80,000, Charity Sobeck said.

Habitat for Humanity Wisconsin River Area serves Iowa, Sauk and Columbia counties constructing single family homes and repairs for existing home owners for seniors and veterans. In over eight years, the chapter has built 31 houses and conducted repairs for 15 homeowners. Chiquoine said it is the first natural disaster project it has done.

“Helping after natural disaster, especially after serving low-income people like this authority does, it’s a really good fit,” Chiquoine said. “We don’t just build for one family at a time. Our goal is building homes and also community.”

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La Valle Resident Dave Meisch helped install trim on doors Dec. 7, his first day helping out. He received word the local Habitat for Humanity was looking for help on Facebook and decided to jump at the chance to assist the community.

“You’ve got to help out the community,” Meisch said. “Everybody is in a mess.”

Charity Sobeck said it was overwhelming to have help from the different local businesses, organizations and community members. Work still needs to be completed, including installing counter tops, carpet and bedrooms. An estimated date when residents could move back but the Sobeck’s are hoping it will be sometime next year.

Rockie Sobeck said volunteers will be needed to help with cleaning efforts once the rebuilding is complete. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Habitat for Humanity’s office at 608-448-2888.