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Weekend flooding at Billings nonprofit accelerates moving plans

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Posted at 7:14 PM, Mar 06, 2024

BILLINGS — There's water damage as far as the eye can see at Billings nonprofit Living Independently for Today & Tomorrow. A burst pipe and flooding have halted their services this week, but employees said it's actually a blessing in disguise.

“I sucked up 10 gallons of water in just 20 minutes,” said LIFTT's financial and HR director, Debra Acosta, on Wednesday.

It's been a heck of a week for Acosta and her colleagues. Flooding destroyed their carpets, flooring and drywall.

“The furniture. More than 90 percent of our furniture is made of particle board, and it absorbed water,” said LIFTT's executive director, Carlos Ramalho.

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Most of their employees are working remotely.

“We estimate that not being open to the public, we fail to help 50 persons a day, and maybe take 200 telephone calls a day,” Ramalho said.

Last year, LIFTT served 2,500 disabled individuals in the region.

Vern Anderson, who has cerebral palsy, was the first person served when it opened 37 years ago.

“LIFTT means my independence,” Anderson said.

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Vern Anderson

LIFTT sends three personal care assistants to check in on Anderson so that he doesn't have to rely on assisted living.

“I wouldn’t be able to, A, live on my own. And B, be able to have the freedoms that I do out in the community, also,” he added.

There is a silver lining to LIFTT's situation.

“It’s like the universe is saying, no you got to move now ‘cuz I’ve got a lot of plans for you,” Acosta said.

The nonprofit was set to move to what used to be St. Stephens Episcopal Church in April, but the flooding has spurred them to move in this month.

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LIFTT's new home

"It's very much like surfing, or like racing a car, or running. It’s just increased the speed that change was happening and believe it or not, change became a part of our life and we welcome that,” said Ramalho.

Though they're making the best of a soggy situation, the nonprofit needs donations. You can contribute to their restoration fund here or here.