Flo Smith found out she had to evacuate her home at 1 a.m. on Saturday. The recent burst of cold weather froze her pipes, and her septic system backed up into her home, ruining nearly everything.
“I found out because the bathtub and the toilet was overrun, and the house was flooding,” said Smith.
She lives with three of her adult children, who have special needs. They gathered the small amount of belongings they could and left.
Only four days later, Smith and her family went to bed Wednesday in temporary housing in an apartment furnished thanks to the generosity of those who knew and worked with Smith.
Smith has worked at the Burlington Lowe's for more than 20 years, since a year after the store opened, and has earned a kind and fun-loving reputation among her coworkers and loyal Lowe's customers.
Blair Burke, a support manager at Lowe's, started a fundraiser for Smith and the speed with which people responded shocked her. Burke said the need increased when Smith found out her insurance would not cover any of the damage to her home and belongings.
“That is the thing that has amazed me the most,” said Burke. “I spearheaded the effort and the thing that warmed my heart is no matter if you were someone who worked for Lowe's 10 years ago or literally for a week. People were coming out of every walk of life and every amount of tenure at Lowe's to help her.”
Burke described Smith as an early bird who always comes to work with a smile on her face. When contractors make their frequent stops at the store, they wait in her line just to cause her grief and wait for her famous catchphrase, telling them to “Ohhh, just shut up.”
“She doesn’t have an enemy in the world,” Burke said.
And losing her home has proved that Smith does have a lot of friends.
In the short time since her home flooded, community members — many of them knowing Smith from her work at Lowe's — donated furniture, household items, clothes, meals and even a place to live. A YouCaring.com site set up to raise money already hit its goal of $1,000.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Smith. “You have no idea. You just don’t think that people are like that, but they are.”
She said many of those who donated were people she had worked with or knew from the store, but many others were just generous strangers.
Smith said after a month in the temporary situation, she hopes to move her family back into something more permanent.
“We are determined to get her into a home,” said Burke. “Even if that means rebuilding a home.”
For now, Smith said she is just happy to have a bed to sleep in.