Laura McCradit lost everything she owned when a recent mudslide demolished her Laguna Canyon home. She doesn't drive because of disabilities and has little income, but the Irvine Valley College student has dreams.
In the weeks since the February disaster, friends and community groups have made sure McCradit can keep her dreams of becoming an attorney and working as an advocate for the disabled.
Friends took her in temporarily and classmates gave her clothes and other essentials. The American Red Cross later put her and her son, Christopher, 20, up in a hotel, and recently moved her into an Irvine apartment.
"I've discovered how many wonderful spirits there are," said McCradit, 40, an epileptic who is prone to severe seizures. "Their compassion overwhelms me. Only in a disaster do you realize who your true friends are."
The Red Cross helped McCradit with temporary housing, meals, a security deposit for her new apartment, and some furniture, said Judy Iannaccone, spokeswoman for the county branch of the organization.
"Financially, I just would not have made it without the Red Cross," McCradit said. "It would have probably taken me years to get back on track without their help."
McCradit said her dog, Cheeba, trained to sense when she is having a seizure, also has been a lifesaver during her ordeal.
Now in her senior year at Irvine Valley College, McCradit said she hopes to transfer to a four-year university to continue her studies. She works part time in the school's Re-Entry and Women's Center.
Asked how she feels to be back in her own place, McCradit said: "I've never enjoyed vacuuming so much in my life. Cheeba loves her new home. She's been hunting down lizards and enjoying going for long walks with me."