May 21, 2021 marked a significant milestone in the lives of nine Sweeting’s Cay residents and their families, as they received keys to new hurricane impact homes. The recipients' homes were destroyed by Hurricane Dorian back in 2019.
Dubbed the Sweeting’s Cay Home Project, the keys presentation ceremony was a success due to the commitment of Rotary International, the TK Foundation and a group of young men who aptly named themselves the ‘Team Sea Grape.’
The young men worked tirelessly to construct the nine homes; the first phase of the partners’ contributions to residents of the quaint cay.
Following the recent handover ceremony, this daily spoke with several homeowners, who all expressed their profound gratitude and appreciation to the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for their dedicated commitment to ensure they were able to return to their homes.
Charmaine Tate accepted the key for her mother’s (Nadine Feaster) new home.
“I want to express our heartfelt gratitude to all who made this possible. We are eternally grateful and to God be the glory. Words really just cannot explain what this means to us, who have lost everything. My parents are elderly. My father longed to see this day, but he did not make it back.
“My mother is back home, I brought her here early this morning so that she could see what was happening before everyone else came, and she was moved to tears,” said Tate, trying to contain her own emotions.
“We are just happy, thankful and grateful for their commitment. To the donors, the sponsors, the workers, everyone who contributed to this in any way. Just to have their (Sweeting’s Cay residents) lives restored and brought back to some sort of normalcy, that they can return home to the place that they know and love is just wonderful.”
Homeowner Alma Tate also expressed her appreciation.
“Without the help of the Rotary Clubs and the TK Foundation … the help might have come, but it would have been a very long time. I am very thankful and grateful for what the Lord has instilled in them all, to do a job such as this. Since Dorian I have been living in Freeport, but Sweeting’s Cay is home. I was born here.
“Now, as soon as I can purchase the joint compound and find someone to do the plastering and put down my tiles, I am ready to go, because I already have all of my appliances and everything. The only things I do not have are a dining table and furniture. But other than that, I have everything else that I could possibly get at this time,” she added.
Dorothy Russell, daughter of homeowner Rosie Russell said the following: “First of all I would like to thank Rotary for playing such a vital part in her being able to receive these keys. It was hard for her to lose everything that she owned. Although she was unable to be here, I can say that she would have been elated.
“She does not like Freeport and to come back home would be a dream come true for her. She is excited, and wants to thank all those who had a part in this, in ensuring that she is able to come back home whenever she wants to.
“God is a good God. We are so grateful and thankful for the opportunity to move back home into a dwelling place that we had no part in … only God. We cannot thank Rotary and all of those entities that took part enough. I am humbled, thankful and grateful, thank you again from the bottom of my heart.”
Rosie Russell was also the proprietor of a restaurant and bar on Sweeting’s Cay, directly across the street from her residence. Her business and home were completely demolished, as a result of Dorian.
“We have to get together and decide what we are going to do; whether we are going to rebuild the club or build something else that we can benefit from. We cannot let it just go like that. I am still paying for a business license, so we need to get something going.”
Eleanor Tate, daughter of Marlene Feaster described the key presentation event as a “true blessing.”
Noting that while her mother could not attend the ceremony due to a health condition Tate said the matriarch is feeling good in her spirit, because we have come a very long way since the hurricane. So many people that left from here have not returned. Some died, some did not make it and some are still trying to get home. We are overjoyed and overwhelmed. We say thank you to God, because this really is a blessing, having survived the storm we have been through. God is good.”
Tate added that her mother is almost 100 and they would love to bring her home, if only for the last time.
Questioned about the present conditions on the cay, nearly two years since Hurricane Dorian Tate was positive. “It is getting better, but it is a process. We have our moments of ups and downs. We go through it all, but if we did not know about hard times, we would not have been here.
“Based on how we were raised by our parents, we know how to survive. That is what it is all about. I am still in the dome, I am not in the house yet. I am working on trying to get the house back together, so that I can live in there until everything is completed. I still have a lot of work to do, but to God be the glory. It is going to happen.”
Tate informed this daily that Sweeting’s Cay has been home to her pretty much her entire life. “I am the youngest of my mother’s 12 children. I have always stayed here with her and taken care of her, along with my two brothers. We all lived together, but after the storm we were separated.
“One of my brothers started to build something behind our mother’s home and I started to build something in the back, as well. Since our mother’s home was rebuilt first, we decided to completely finish this, to have some place to live until I receive help to complete my house,” she concluded.