On a stormy night in September 2018, the remnants of Hurricane Florence were still lashing the city of Charlotte, NC. The Brownes’ son, Ricky, was laying in bed in his upstairs bedroom listening to the wind and the rain beating against his window when he decided to move to his parents’ bed downstairs. Just a few hours later, a massive oak tree limb smashed through the roof and into his bedroom.
When Richard stumbled out of bed to see what had happened, he couldn’t believe his eyes. “There was water pouring down through the first-floor ceiling,” he says, “It looked like it was raining directly into the house.” The family grabbed a few things and took shelter at a neighbor’s home while the fire department shut off the gas and electricity.
Richard called PURE, and his claims adjuster, Steve, responded immediately, making sure the family was safe and comfortable for the night. He arranged for a tree service to come out to the house the next day, and while they were removing it, the front of the house collapsed.
Lauren’s first thought was that they might be caught in legal battle with the tree company. “Steve just told us, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it,’” she says. “And it was never an issue. It was such a relief.” Steve recommended a contractor and helped kick start the restoration work. “Even though everyone was okay, it was a big blow. It was hard to get used to being displaced. We recognized it would take a lot for us to dig out of where we were,” says Richard.
As a first step, PURE Member Advocate® Joan Smith helped the family find a suitable place to stay while their home was being rebuilt. “She said, ‘I’ll fly out to Charlotte to help coordinate it for you,’” recalls Richard. “And that was the moment I started to feel okay. Joan was like an angel for us.”
Joan managed to find the Brownes a house less than a mile away, supervised the move-in and even filled the pantry for them. Because their temporary living arrangements were so close to their home, it was easy to occasionally check on the rebuilding progress. “I would sneak over in the evenings and sit in the house by myself for an hour,” says Richard. “I just loved the feeling of being there thinking about my family being back home together.” Joan continued to help with coordinating tasks, guiding the family through the complicated process of returning to normal.
“It wasn’t like working with an insurance company,” Richard says. “The calm that they gave us and the general feeling of caring they displayed—to this day we talk about how much that meant to us.”
PURE stayed involved during the entire process. As it turned out, the tree that crushed the Brownes’ house had been weakened by rot. That’s not a problem that is typically apparent to a layman. So PURE connected the Brownes to an arborist to evaluate the other trees on their property, and in doing so found several others close to the home that were also impacted by health issues.
The only solution, unfortunately, was to remove them. PURE’s Loss Prevention Benefit, which provides up to $2,500 to prevent similar damage when a member experiences a qualifying Homeowners claim of $10,000 or more, contributed towards the costs.
It would take 15 long months to restore the Brownes’ home, months that the Brownes put to good use—spending more time together, thinking about what matters and what they could do without. “It’s all about enjoying what we have surrounding us and the things we take for granted. It’s just a matter of paring down. We’ve really simplified. My life feels less complicated after everything we’ve been through,” says Lauren.
“We did get some life lessons out of this,” says Richard. “For a period of time, we were just all together, all the time, which actually was great. I think we’ve come to realize what counts is being able to spend time with Ricky. It brought us even closer as a family.”