FRANKLIN, Tenn. – A family of eight whose Franklin home was destroyed by floodwater last May returned home Friday for the first time in a year.
Dozens of volunteers and staff members from Christian organization Samaritan's Purse, along with friends and neighbors celebrated the family's homecoming Friday afternoon with a block party at the newly finished home on Cottonwood Drive.
"We are so happy that this day is here," Sherri Heileman said with tears in her eyes. "To be able to come home now, at this point, has really been kind of a healing process for us."
After the flood, Steve and Sherri Heileman's home had been gutted to the studs with the help of volunteers from the family's church and their community.
Then Samaritan's Purse helped the family rebuild.
"The relationships we have built through Samaritan's Purse rebuilding our house [have] been unbelievable. We have been blessed beyond measure," Sherri told Nashville's News 2 on Friday.
The Heilemans have six children, two of which the couple adopted and are wheelchair bound, requiring constant nursing care.
When the flood hit, the family was faced with more than $250,000 worth of repairs.
They only received about $29,000 in assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Heilemans could not afford to pay mortgage on their home and rent for a new place to stay as they waited for their home to be repaired.
The Heilemans spent the last year living in a house loaned to them by strangers.
After hearing about their needs, the family of a soccer player Steve coached at Franklin High School had offered up their own home to the family.
The Heilemans were nominated for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, but the producers of the show eventually chose to rebuild a preschool building at Lighthouse Christian School instead.
After repairs on the home had already begun, money and materials soon ran out, so Samaritan's Purse stepped in to help the family finish the project.
"This process has just been incredible," Sherri said. "I mean, our house is built with love, and there's no other contractor that can say that or that could do that."
Over 330 volunteers have worked with Samaritan's Purse in Nashville since the flood.