Jimmy Fallon and Home Depot Surprise Family Whose Home Was Hit by Two Hurricanes with New House
The McArthurs' home was damaged by two hurricanes — Florence and Matthew — in less than two years
After Divya McArthur’s home in downtown Lumberton, N.C., was hit by two hurricanes in two years, she and her family were in need of a miracle.
They’d lost their furniture and appliances, experienced damage to their floors, walls and roof and they didn’t have flood insurance. So they started dipping into their savings account to try and repair the home that had been in their family since her grandmother built it in 1970s.
For two years, they had been using Amish heaters because their furnace had been damaged by the first flood during Hurricane Matthew, which brought two feet of water into their home.
“We hadn’t had any main source of heat since 2016,” Divya, who owns a salon, tells PEOPLE. “So we still needed heat, we still needed a roof.”
The second flood came 22 months later during Hurricane Florence, leaving four feet of standing water in their home and destroying many of their sentimental belongings.
In November 2018, Divya’s whole life changed when Jimmy Fallon surprised her and her family during a taping of the Tonight Show with a gift from The Home Depot Foundation and Operation Blessing to renovate their home after the destruction.
“I can’t think about the flood and not think about things that I had, like my wedding gown, our wedding album,” Divya told PEOPLE after the taping. “It was devastating, to say the least. Matthew caught us by surprise with the flooding. We were told that this wouldn’t happen again for 500 years. We did some preventative measures. You kind of hunker down before a storm, but never did we think that there would be water back in our house. Not 22 months after another storm.”
Initially, the plan was to renovate the home they resided in during the floods, but when the contractors came in for an evaluation, they found that the home was going to continually be exposed to flooding regardless of renovations. Divya and her husband Terry, a corrections officer, were presented with a choice: tear down their home and rebuild it above flood level, but still risk water damage during dangerous storms, or purchase a new home.
“We just kind of decided it did not make sense to put that kind of money into a home that could potentially flood again,” Divya says. “To be honest, it was kind of bittersweet because I have ties to this house. It’s my grandmother’s and it’s just part of a legacy. However, wisdom says you need to do what’s best for you and your family.”
Divya says she still can’t believe that Home Depot and Operation Blessing not only purchased her family a new home, but fully furnished it and renovated it as well.
“I didn’t see it coming to fruition because miracles like that just do not happen,” she says. “You see it on television, but I just did not expect to be blessed in this way.”
Not only did they furnish the house and provide all new appliances, but the non-profits also added personal touches like hanging letters that spell out the McArthur’s 12-year-old son Lucas’s name in his room.
“Not only did they purchase this home, they McArthur-ized it,” Divya says. “They didn’t have to do that. They could have gifted it to us, said God bless you, and gone on. With all the uncertainties that are going on in the world today, to see these people rally together and do something for our family, who they’ve never met, it just lets me know that the man, He’s still among us.”
Of course, Operation Blessing had to make sure the McArthurs had a piece of their old home in their new one, so they hung Divya’s grandmother’s portrait above an end table in the living room.
“That was one of the first things I saw when the place was revealed to us,” Divya says. “I just wanted to have a piece of her with me here.”