This Manuel Lake home in the town of Phelps was built on a slab 25 years ago. Rising water levels this fall resulted in the lake reaching the house and garage. —Contributed Photos
This Manuel Lake home in the town of Phelps was built on a slab 25 years ago. Rising water levels this fall resulted in the lake reaching the house and garage. —Contributed Photos
When Donald and Laura Vander Bloemen built their home on Manuel Lake in the town of Phelps in the mid-1990s, little did they know that 25 years later the lake would be in their house.

The Vander Bloemens watched with disbelief this fall as the water level in the lake began to rise, surpassing the historial high-water mark for the shallow 77-acre lake.

When the Vander Bloemens built the house, they knew the 200- by 200-foot lot was low. But they built it up with some fill and constructed the house on a slab knowing a basement was not a possibility.

But the rain and snow runoff the last two years brought the lake level up. Manuel Lake is a seepage lake with no inlet or outlet.

“The water rose about one-third of the 3 feet of elevation last year,” said Don Vander Bloemen. “That was reduced to 6 inches by August and from about Aug. 1 to the end of September, it rose another 2 feet, flooding the house. Half the lot is a lake now.”

The high water overtook the septic system and the interior of the house Sept. 27 and has since receded to 11⁄2 to 2 inches of water throughout the house. But the damage is done. The siding, chipboard, insulation and drywall have all sustained water damage.

“We removed the doors and some trim and all of our personal belongings from the home, but there is so much humidity in the house that mold is inevitable,” said Vander Bloemen. “It’s really unfortunate.”

The Vander Bloemens have no flood insurance for the home, as obtaining flood insurance in Wisconsin is very rare.

“We are currently renting a home and working on buying a fixer-upper or building a new home,” said Vander Bloemen, who has been in construction for 30 years.  “Even if the water level recedes, we see no reason to stick money into this place.”

GoFundMe started

Kevin Erickson of Woodruff, a co-worker of Laura Vander Bloemen, is organizing a fundraiser for the Vander Bloemens on a GoFundMe page. 

As of Nov. 12, GoFundMe has raised $12,714 of the  $20,000 goal.

“Due to the unfortunate fact they didn’t have flood insurance, like most other Wisconsin residents, they lost everything,” stated Erickson in a GoFundMe page post. “Through such a challenging time, they have been fortunate to have the help of friends and family and are asking for just a little more help.

“Since it seems that it could be possibly years before their home dries out, they are hoping to rebuild it or even find a new home if it’s the best option,” states Erickson. “Having any financial assistance in this challenging time  could make an incredible difference in their future. Anything you can do to help in their time of need is appreciated  more than you could imagine.”

Erickson stated the community has responded.

“I just want to thank everyone for their amazing support and overwhelming kindness in supporting Laura and Don,” stated Erickson in another GoFundMe page post. “If everyone can take a moment sometime and just share the GoFundMe on their different social media platforms, that would be a massive help towards reaching out and getting as much help as possible for Laura and Don.”

The Vander Bloemens said they appreciate the support from community members.

“This has been an excellent example of how not only communities can come together to help each other, but also how the compassion and giving of perfect strangers is still very real in this ever-changing world we live in,” said Vander Bloemen.