Habitat for Humanity Continues to Rebuild What Was Lost in 2008 Flood

DES MOINES, Iowa – Habitat for Humanity is building houses in the Birdland Park neighborhood 10 years after a levee broke, causing mass flooding.

Birdland Park resident Kent Newman said the floods caused mandatory evacuations.

“The ones that stayed are committed, because most of the people that are here went through both floods, so some people had to rebuild their houses twice,” Newman said.

Newman said his house was not damaged during the 2008 flood, but his neighbors had damage. Over the years Newman has seen the community slowly rebuild.

“A lot of the houses you are seeing here now are in field development where houses were torn down after the two floods,” Neman said.

Habitat for Humanity stepped in and began building houses in 2017.

Director of Development and Marketing for Habitat for Humanity Jenna Ekstorm said 10 houses were built on Watson Avenue in 2017. Now, the organization is building a pocket community on Arthur Avenue.

“We have split levels, ranches, two stories, anything that will fit in with the character of the neighborhood,” Ekstorm said.

Once complete, Arthur Avenue will have 23 new homes for families to move in to.

“We have worked with over 40 families just in Birdland in the past two years to help them stay here safely and affordably in addition to the new families that we will be moving in.” Ekstorm said.

Ekstorm said the organization had 18,000 volunteers in 2017 and will need another 8,000 to complete the new community.

Volunteer Bryn Simplot said, “So much of it was damaged by the flood back in the day, so it’s great to be able to see this community kind of get back to where it was before that happened.”

“It’s amazing to see corporations, churches, organizations, the neighborhood residents and families come together and really collaborate on changing the face of a neighborhood,” Ekstorm said.

Newman said the community is not worried about the levee breaking, “Hopefully we never have to test the flood gate.”