Three years ago, after Serena Davidson visited a friend in Northern Virginia, she decided that she would move there. The plan was to relocate in February of 2006, but Mother Nature made things happen a little sooner than expected.
"I actually talked to [my friend] the night that the hurricane was supposed to hit us, and I said to her, this may be the last time I talk to you," said Davidson. "The power went off at 4 that morning."
As it turned out, Davidson did speak to her friend again, although it was not until two and a half weeks later.
"I had been through hurricanes before, but this was different," said Davidson. "This was the first time that I had been in a disaster like this. It was really hard because we were used to going back to everyday life within a few days, but this time that didn't happen."
When Hurricane Katrina struck in mid-August, Davidson was living with her three children and her mother in their home in Covington, La.
"I'd been there my whole life," she said.
After enduring two and a half weeks of barely livable conditions, Davidson, packed up her family and went to stay with her friend in Northern Virginia.
"It was really, really hard," said Davidson of the aftermath of the storm. "We lost all power, we lost all supplies, we lost everything really."
During that time, bottled water and food were scarce, Davidson said.
"It was so hot and muggy in the summertime, and by the time we got ice it had melted," she said. "We were really, really thirsty but we didn't want to drink too much bottled water because we didn't know when we were going to get more."
DESPITE THESE HARDSHIPS Davidson, her mother, and her three children Kenny, 9, Curtis, 8, and Axavier, 5, are now enjoying improved living conditions, thanks in part to the generosity of Long and Foster Real Estate, Inc. in McLean. Seeing the hurricane victims on television inspired Long and Foster Realtor Pat Brosnan to seek out a way to help.
"I saw all of the families that had nowhere to go, so I sat down and did a proposal," said Brosnan.
Brosnan figured out that if everyone at Long and Foster contributed $320, it would be possible to adopt a family and put them in a furnished home for a year. After presenting her idea to her co-workers, it only took three weeks to collect the money from the 90 employees. Contributions also came from some of the mortgage companies and title companies that work with Long and Foster.
"The outpouring in the community has been incredible," said Brosnan.
Ironically, finding a family to adopt proved to be more difficult than securing the funds for the project. Brosnan contacted FEMA, the American Red Cross, Catholic charities and even the D.C. Armory. She was finally able to find Serena Davidson and her three children through Fairfax County. Just before Thanksgiving, the Davidson clan was able to move into their new home in Pimmit Hills.
"It's working out wonderfully," said Davidson. "We have wonderful neighbors and it's nice to come home to my own place and not have to stay with somebody else … and it's been really good for my kids because they have a place to call home."
Davidson has been working at Town and Country Animal Hospital in Fairfax since September, and is expecting her fourth child in April. Currently, her three children are attending Mosby Woods Elementary School in Vienna.
"They are a lovely, lovely family," said Kathy Semales, an administrative assistant at Long and Foster.
Long and Foster will pay the rent on the home for the next year. In addition, a different employee cooks a meal and brings it over to the Davidsons once a week.
"It's our 'Angel of the Week,'" said Brosnan.
Several restaurants in McLean have also provided the Davidsons with gift certificates, and McLean Bible Church made a Christmas Wish List for the family.
"The generosity in this area is truly impressive," said Brosnan.
Long & Foster has also held several office parties in an attempt to get the family acquainted with everyone there.
"Serena is just amazing," said Brosnan. "She has just got the best philosophy."