*This is the final story in a three-part series leading up to Kevin Wallevand's documentary 'Rebuilding Paradise' airing on WDAY at 6:30 Thursday, Nov. 22., If you would like to watch part one CLICK HERE, and for part two CLICK HERE.*
WDAY News has been bringing you emotional stories from Puerto Rico.
Two dozen volunteers from our region traveled to the island, helping in the recovery effort following Hurricane Maria.
For days, the team worked to gut an abandoned house and make it a home for a great-grandmother who lost everything in the hurricane.
As WDAY News Reporter Kevin Wallevand found out, the final day was more than just an "extreme makeover" reveal.
With the morning sun comes the promise of another stifling hot humid day on the island of Puerto Rico, but as work begins on rebuilding paradise, there is anticipation today.
Luz, the 71-year old widow and great-grandmother left homeless after Hurricane Maria, will get a new home, thanks to Rotary volunteers from Fargo Moorhead and Calvary Lutheran church members in Park Rapids.
“We have some wild rice soup from Minnesota so we come together with your Puerto Rico food and our Minnesota soup to share a meal,” said Jo Judson.
As a treat to Luz Soto Martinez, the Minnesota and ND volunteers made Wild Rice Soup with real Minnesota harvested wild rice.
Luz turned the tables, she brought them all an authentic Puerto Rican meal.
“She wanted to cook for them,” said Luz’s translator.
And then the moment so many had worked all week long for.
“With your hands, Lord, bless this house becoming a home,” Reverend Roger Olson said.
Retired Lutheran pastor Olson blessed the home, an emotional Luz watched and was given a special gift that just says Midwest hospitality, a quilt for her new home.
Inside the house is nearly complete, another team from Park Rapids will put on the finishing touches.
Luz walked around surprised at what all got done in 5 days.
A new bathroom, for one thing.
“She says she is so happy, she doesn't know what to say. She is really happy” a translator said for Luz.
Finally after living as a Hurricane Maria Storm refugee, Luz, which means, 'Light', was moving into a house again.
It had been just over a year.
And the volunteers from North Dakota and Minnesota were going home fulfilled.
Rebuilding Paradise, for one.