NEW ORLEANS — Imagine you're sitting in your house during a storm when it's struck by lightning and it feels like your home lifts from its foundation. That happened a few weeks ago in Bywater and you'll recognize the homeowner: jazz singer Charmaine Neville of the Neville family.
"I love this old house. We've been through a lot together," Neville said walking through her damaged home.
Her 100-plus-year-old home in Bywater has been fixed up time and time again.
"We survived Katrina. That was the biggest issue for me," she said pointing near the ceiling. "The water was up to there."
A few weeks ago water was back in her home after she heard a loud noise during a thunderstorm.
"I heard the big boom and I felt the whole house shake and the next thing I know I started smelling smoke," she said.
A tree next to her home was on fire, but it was quickly put out by the downpour of rain.
She realized the tree and her home were hit by a bolt of lightning that blew out her windows, left cracks through her walls, and fried her entire electrical wiring and everything that was plugged in including her refrigerator, TV, lamps, and keyboard.
"All the light bulbs blew," Neville said. "Anything that was plugged in was destroyed."
She is still without air conditioning but has electricity again.
"The lights alone to get them back on is like $17,000," Neville said.
Like the rest of the Neville family, she lights up on stage, but gigs are few and far between since the pandemic and several strokes.
"I was working constantly, but now it's not like that anymore," she said.
That makes it tough to afford tens of thousands in repairs.
"I called my homeowners insurance," Neville said. "When I was sick for such a long time and I wasn’t working, I wasn’t able to pay my premium so they dropped me."
Despite this new hardship, Neville said she feels blessed.
"God is good and I have my faith, not just in him, mainly in him, but also in friends because they’ve been really tremendous," she said.
A friend is helping her replace her windows while other friends and strangers are donating to help her fund the repairs.
Feed the Second Line, a non-profit created to support culture bearers of New Orleans through the Krewe of Red Beans, started a donation fund for Neville and dropped off a $7,000 check Wednesday.
"Oh my goodness, I just don’t even know what to say except thank you," Neville said to Devin DeWulf, the Krewe of Red Beans founder.
Donations for Neville are still being accepted through Feed the Second Line here.
A Go Fund Me was also created by a neighbor who is organizing a benefit concert.