Neil Diamond helps Ike victims

November 17, 2009 3:45:15 PM PST
Just over a year ago, parts of Chambers County looked like a war zone. Homes and lives were left in pieces after Hurricane Ike hit. Now more than a dozen residents there are getting their lives back. And the man responsible is probably the last person they expected to come to the rescue.

The man is a world famous singer who's sold millions of albums, but he has also helped to get more than a dozen homes built on Oak Island. In those parts, that makes him a hero.

"When I first came down here, I just cried and cried and cried," said resident Mary McAlpin.

Fourteen months after Hurricane Ike destroyed everything she owned, McAlpin is finally seeing the light. After months of living in a small FEMA trailer, she got a peek into her new permanent home.

"Oh my gosh, look at it. It's just fabulous," McAlpin said.

While the home itself is amazing, three bedrooms perched above the flood plain, what really gets this widowed grandmother is who made it possible.

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Neil Diamond," said McAlpin.

The legendary artist first learned of the plight of Oak Island while at a concert in Houston last December. After visiting the small fishing town, Diamond took it upon himself to help raise money for the community. Through sale of merchandise at his concerts, he managed to raise $1.8 million, enough for 14 families like the Shiver's to have brand new homes.

"Before I didn't know really who he was, now I'm like that's Neil Diamond playing. That's the one helping me get my house. He's the one that made it all possible," said resident Brianna Shiver.

Chambers County officials says the money could not have come at a better time. In March, FEMA plans to end the trailer program, all this as block grant money is being held up.

But for folks like McAlpin, at least she can rest easy thanks to one generous superstar.

"No strings attached, free and clear. What else could you ask for?" she said.

McAlpin hopes to be in her house within three weeks. County officials say the rest of the 14 families should be in their homes by Christmas time.


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