PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - When Hurricane Matthew rolled through the region in 2016, nearly 30 homes in the Black River community of Pender County were left underwater.
Sixteen months later, a handful of families still haven't returned to their homes, including the Edwards family of Atkinson. But piece by piece, smoothing out every last bump, the Edwards home is slowly being rebuilt.
The floodwaters of the Black River rushed into the home after Hurricane Matthew hit.
"It came as fast as you could get anything and get out," said Chris Edwards.
In addition to taking all of the family's belongings, the storm claimed something more life-threatening.
"Due to the hurricane, she missed one last appointment and they took us off the list," Chris Edwards said.
Edwards' wife, Janet, was diagnosed with renal failure on Christmas Day -- her birthday -- then Matthew forced her to miss her chance for a kidney transplant, a second crushing blow.
"It was surreal, devastating," Chris Edwards said. "Everything that we ever worked for was gone."
The family has been working to get back on its feet with the helpful hands of the Faith Harbor United Methodist Church in Surf City. Volunteers work on the home with Chris every Wednesday.
"When you have a family that you know already that has suffered so much, it's so easy to take them and love them," said team leader Edna Fisher.
These volunteers say their acts of kindness are anything but work.
"This is not a job," Fisher said. "This is truly an act of love for this family."
Formed out of tragedy, this new start has helped forge a bond between the family and these selfless volunteers.
"I would have lost a lot of faith and a lot of hope and they have restored that in me," Chris Edwards said.
More than 1,200 volunteers have completed 21 homes in the Black River area with five more to complete, hopefully by spring.
Janet Edwards is seeing a kidney specialist at UNC Chapel Hill and working toward getting back on the transplant list.