Some Ike victims on road to recovery for holidays

HOUSTON On Tuesday, some storm victims finally moved back into their homes more than a year after losing everything.

It's been a very long 15 months for Maria Huerta, breathing with the aid of an oxygen tank and awaiting a liver transplant when Hurricane Ike swept ashore and badly damaged her home. With help, she's home for the holidays.

Huerta and her mother enjoyed the piney smell of a donated Christmas tree, their first experience in Huerta's newly renovated home. Fifteen months ago, it was a very different story after Huerta and her mother Maria Aguirre evacuated to Brownsville just before Ike hit.

"By the next day by the time we woke up over there the hurricane had hit and everything on TV, it was a total disaster," said Huerta.

She got some help from FEMA, but she and her mom had to move to an apartment in La Marque. Her health problems stopped her from getting her house fixed.

"I was sickly. I couldn't do this, I couldn't run around and talk to this and talk to that. I was at a standstill," said Huerta.

That's when the volunteers with Galveston County Restore and Rebuild came in A group made up of different organizations like Catholic Charities and Gulf Coast Interfaith. Their mission is to help people with low or moderate incomes get back in their homes.

"Homes have been restored by volunteers who've come in from all over the country and who donated funds and we're really welcoming them back to their homes for Christmas," said Joe Higgs of Gulf Coast Interfaith.

In fact, the group is getting 15 families back home this week alone, bringing their total since the storm to 155.

As for Huerta and her mother, it's good to be home for the holidays.

"I can't believe it. It's a miracle," said Maria Aguirre, Huerta's mother.

Huerta agreed, saying, "I'm ready to light up the tree and I'm ready to put furniture in and put on some Mexican food for Christmas."

Restore and Rebuild told us that college students will volunteer on their spring break this coming March and will be painting the exteriors on the houses.

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