Hurricane Matthew victim, vet celebrates Christmas with children in their new home

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— Christmas 2019 took on an added layer of celebration for a former Fort Bragg soldier and victim of Hurricane Matthew. For the first time in three years, Tomeka Rich and her five children woke up on Christmas morning in their own home.

“This has been amazing,” she said.

Since Hurricane Matthew chased her out of her house, Rich and her children bounced around. For awhile, they shared a small apartment.

Their new home has four bedrooms and two baths. It is a big change, and a new experience for her 3-year-old daughter, Serenity.

“For her to wake up in her own room … she doesn’t have to worry about sharing with her older kids. She can share by herself,” Rich said. “She’s got somewhere to run around. She doesn’t have to be stuck in the house.”

Fifteen of the 47 homes in the new Oakridge Estates community off Bunce Road were set aside for hurricane victims. In addition, Habitat for Humanity earmarked about a half dozen for veterans. Rich’s family fits both of those boxes.

So far, about a dozen families have moved in. Behind each door, there are stories of survival, hope and the formation of new family traditions.