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Saturday December 07, 2019
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Hurricane Hospitality

A Lakewood couple welcomes Bahamian refugees.

by Eve Silberman

From the October, 2019 issue

When U-M profs Janine Maddock and Philip Andrews learned that Hurricane Dorian had destroyed a Bahamas beach cottage that had been in Andrews' family for decades, "it was pretty emotional," says Maddock. They grieved for several days--and then asked each other, "Now, what do we do?"

What the empty-nesters did was invite a family of now-homeless island neighbors to share their Ann Arbor home. In mid-September they were moving into the furnished basement of their home in the Lakewood neighborhood. Billy and Danielle Malone and their four children would get the upstairs bedrooms.

The Malones hunkered down in a neighbor's basement closet while eighty-to-100-mile-an-hour winds ripped apart trees and homes on tiny Man-O-War Cay. When the family emerged, recalls Billy Malone by phone from Florida, they found "lamp poles snapped in half like toothpicks, every single boat in the harbor twisted and turned."

With half the roof gone, their own home was uninhabitable. Flown to the U.S. on a rescue helicopter and allowed in on temporary visas, they were sleeping on the floor of a relative's apartment in St. Petersburg when they reached Andrews and Maddock. Malone, recently laid off from his job as a ferry captain, had worked for them in the Bahamas.

Maddock and Andrews sent money--then decided to do much more. Malone was so stunned at being invited to live with them that he asked if it was a serious offer.

Maddock's matter-of-fact reply: "I don't want six people living in my house. But I will make the best of it, and you will make the best of it."

Maddock says the chance to improve one family's life has helped her gain perspective. "We're just grieving the loss of material things," she says, "and that's not important."

Two hours after Maddock alerted their neighbors by email, one showed up at the house with brand-new bedding. Children made welcome signs for the kids' rooms, and the neighborhood was planning a party when they arrived in late September.

"We're very appreciative of what everyone has done," Billy Malone says--adding that their children are most excited about seeing snow for the first time.     (end of article)

[Originally published in October, 2019.]


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