A Santa Rosa Beach couple has a little bit more to be thankful for this holiday as they will finally be getting some much-needed assistance.
It was during the record breaking rainfall this past summer that Rebecca and Ron Thum suffered severe damages to their home, which is mostly covered in bright blue tarps.
“We bought the place in 1979, and it has never flooded before — not even during a hurricane,” Rebecca said.
During one particular summer shower, Rebecca said she remembers watching the water get higher and higher outside her house
“Now, the whole side of our home is coming down, the AC is shot and there’s black mold growing on the ceiling, which isn’t good since I have COPD.”
The rain seemed to top off Rebecca and Ron’s string of bad luck. Ron recently learned that he has a form of skin cancer. On July 3, he lost his job of 20 years, which means he also lost health insurance for him and his wife.
“It’s been an up and down roller coaster,” he said. “I’m 55 years old and I’m afraid we’re going to lose everything.”
Since Rebecca is disabled, the couple is unable fund any repairs their home. To make do, they have tarps placed over their damaged roof and sleep next to perfectly placed buckets to catch water when it rains.
With the damaged air conditioner, Rebecca and Ron have little defense against the cold nights.
“We just use a lot of blankets and we have two, small electric heaters,” Rebecca said.
With no where else to turn to, Rebecca contacted Al Ford, emergency management coordinator at the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, with her list of damages.
WCSO along with United Way of Okaloosa and Walton County, Catholic Charities, American Red Cross and Hammers with a Heart created the Long Term Recovery Organization in September to help assist Walton County residents who suffered major damages during the summer flood.
Ford responded by getting the husband and wife in touch with Catholic Charities who said they would “take care of everything.” It was a big relief for the couple.
“I don’t know how long we could go without some help,” Ron said.
Ann Imburgio, regional director of Catholic Charities Fort Walton Office, said the organization is proud to be working with families like the Thums to provide assistance.
"There are so many people in our community who are in need of help, and the Long Term Recovery Organization is working to respond to their needs.”
Although it’s not a quick process, and the Thums are still living with the effects of the flooding, Rebecca said she is grateful for the assistance. She counts Catholic Charities among her Thanksgiving blessings along with her family and Bay Cares, which is currently helping Ron receive medical care.
“It’s a great step forward,” she said. “It makes me think maybe there’s a rainbow after the rain after all.”