CAMDEN-ON-GAULEY -- For the first time in a year, Marie and Mert Lawson will have running water where they live.
They'll also be able to have their 22 grandchildren and great-grandchildren over to visit -- something they couldn't do in the camper where they've lived for months.
Thanks to the work of several organizations and a score of volunteers, the Lawsons are in the process of moving into their new house in Webster County, after a falling tree destroyed their old home during Hurricane Sandy.
"It's absolutely God's gift from heaven," Marie Lawson said as she stood on the front porch of her new home as her family cleaned and brought in belongings.
One year ago, Mert and J.R. Adkinson, a grandson, were riding out the storm in the Lawson's mobile home. As the snow continued to pile up, branches from a nearby pine tree started falling on Mert's pickup truck parked outside.
As Mert went outside to check on his truck, another massive tree cracked and fell on the Lawsons' home, crushing it. Fortunately, neither Mert nor his grandson was hurt.
Marie was visiting her granddaughter in Huntington at the time, and couldn't get home right away.
"I told them, 'save my pictures,'<!p><#148> she said.
There was no saving their home, though.
The couple -- both in their 70s -- didn't carry insurance, and stayed with relatives for a few days until a neighbor loaned them a trailer and told them they could live in it until they figured out the next step.
The Lawsons used water from a nearby creek for bathing and cleaning, but had to have water brought in for cooking and drinking.
Because the Federal Emergency Management Agency didn't approve individual assistance for residents in West Virginia, as it did in New Jersey and New York, FEMA funding was not available to those with damaged homes.
For the Lawsons, that meant private organizations were their only resource.
The American Red Cross learned of the Lawsons' situation, and arranged for the family to receive $10,000 through the its Move-In Assistance Program. That money was also combined with donations of time and money from other organizations that partner with West Virginia Voluntary Organizations in Disaster (VOAD) to generate enough resources to get the Lawsons a new house.
In the Lawsons' case, Mennonite Disaster Service coordinated the home-building effort. A team led by Perry Miller, who owns Countryside Plumbing in Hartville, Ohio, built the home.
"I just call them my angels from heaven," Marie said of the team. "If God has anyone better he could've sent, I don't know where he would've got them. We're still in awe."
Miller said construction began Sept. 26. The team wrapped up the project just last Friday -- just under a month after it began.
"Before we knew it, the house was up!" Marie said. "When they handed us the key and said, 'We're done,' I couldn't believe it."
Marie said the building team became like family. A Pittsburgh Steelers fan herself, she said she and the workers would tease each other over football.
"They were all Browns fans," she said. "I'm still not sure I'm not going to find something in this house that's Cleveland Browns."
Besides Mennonite Disaster Service and the Red Cross, other organizations helped with the construction.
Neighbors helped tear down the remnants of the destroyed home. First Baptist Church in Webster Springs provided housing for the work team. Other organizations and businesses contributed funding and materials.
"We didn't know there was so many good people in this world," Marie said. "I can't be anymore thankful. It's just a miracle."
In West Virginia, the Lawsons' case isn't unusual.
Hurricane Sandy dumped more than three feet of heavy, wet snow in some areas of West Virginia, and with leaves still on the trees, the weight of the snow was much more than the structure of the trees could handle, causing vast damage to power lines and buildings.
Damage was particularly heavy in a line roughly stretching from Preston County in the north to Wyoming County in the south where some of the higher amounts of snow fell. Besides including higher elevations, those areas are also some of the most remote spots in the state.
The snow, the scope of the damage and the rural aspect of the area mean that help may come at a much slower rate than in cities.