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NEWS | March 9, 2023

NSWCDD employee helps families rebuild homes, lives after natural disasters

By Jennifer Erickson, NSWCDD Corporate Communications

“Home away from home”

Trees down. Roof damage needing a tarp cover. And, a widowed mother with three children. Hurricane Ian’s aftermath had just torn through her home in Port Charlotte, Florida, Sept. 28, 2022.

“We pulled out beds and furniture and clothes,” Janna Roland said, recalling her visit with the mother during the hurricane recovery trip. “There was no way they could save any part of the house where it was wet. It was just not safe. They were sleeping in the car outside of their house.”

Roland and others were able to dry the house out enough so the family was able to move back in. She later found out the mother was a candidate for a home rebuild project in November so she was able to return and assist in putting her home back together. Roland was amazed by the growth in hope and faith she witnessed of the mother.

“It was night and day in her personality,” she said, noting this as “one of my most touching stories.”

When Roland’s not serving others, she’s the Test Execution Lead for the USS SECURE Team at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD). In October 2020, she and her husband looked for a way to serve their community in Panama City, Florida, after his job relocation to NSWC Panama City.

She looked to the Fredericksburg Christian based 501c3 non-profit construction ministry, 516 Project, Inc.

“The program’s main objective is to build access to hope,” Roland said.

The Rolands brought the first official 516 Project Serve Saturday to Panama City in July 2021 and the ministry now serves at least one family every month. To date it’s served 48 families. The economic impact across Fredericksburg, Richmond and Panama City is $534 thousand.

The Bible scripture, Matthew 5:16, which reads, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” is where the ministry’s name derives.

Some of the 516 Projects Roland has participated in include going to Louisiana after Hurricane Ida in 2021. In 2022, teams went to Kentucky for disaster recovery from floods and tornadoes. When tornadoes ripped through Panama City, they went door to door helping families clear trees.

Roland collaborated with Hope Project International in 2019, 2021 and 2022 for a homebuilding mission trip to Nicaragua; where families live on the bare ground under tarps or in make shift shanty structures. She plans to return in June 2023.

Roland hails as one of nine recipients of the NSWCDD Distinguished Community Service Award, an award she also received in 2019.

“I can share my stories with people just to help them through hard times, make things a little easier for them,” Roland said, noting, “It takes a support system. It takes everything for you to be in the right place and the right time in order to up and go and to spend your time away from home, but it’s a great blessing so it’s worth it.”