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Remembering Katrina: Mississippi's rebuilding efforts in need of volunteers

By Lauren Wilkes Auttonberry
8/29/2006

ENS Photo by Lauren Wilkes Auttonberry
Camp Coast Care struggles to fill its bunks with volunteers as it competes with end of summer vacations and start of school activities.   (ENS Photo by Lauren Wilkes Auttonberry)

 
[ENS, PASS CHRISTIAN, Mississippi]  The Oak Park neighborhood of Pass Christian looked much like any modest, working-class neighborhood—until Hurricane Katrina dumped between 15 and 20 feet of floodwater and debris on the area.

Camp Coast Care (CCC), a recovery and reconstruction mission for those in need on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, has sent crews to work on several of the houses in Oak Park. The organization, under the auspices of Lutheran Episcopal Services in Mississippi and a partner in development with Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD), has completely refurbished the interior of three houses and completed the gutting and interior rebuild on five houses, along with many smaller projects on several other homes.

Yet, since late June, CCC has not had the number of volunteers needed to continue putting families back into their homes.

"We're seeing this up and down the coast," said Van Bankston, site director. "Camp Coast Care is not the only organization that is seeing a lull in its numbers."

Walter Reeves, a former casino employee and resident in Oak Park, could be back in his home in a matter of days, were the volunteers available to help him finish installing kitchen cabinets, appliances and some minor plumbing. The fatigue and frustration is evident in the former pit boss and submarine sailor's eyes. His wife, Constance, asks daily when they can return to their home with their teenage daughter. But Reeves refuses to lose his positive and thankful outlook.

"I don't know what we would have done without volunteers," he said. "They have been such a blessing."

Another home, just a few miles east, is also poised to accept its family—except the manpower has been unavailable to finish out some plumbing and kitchen installations. The homeowner, a single mother with five children, has been living in a FEMA trailer since last fall. The refurbishing work on the home began in May.

"You have to look at the family situation," said Bruce Colville, a CCC project coordinator. "You can look at the details of their situation, but what it really comes down to is that there isn't anything about their situation that would not be better if they were back in their own home."

Information about volunteering on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is available at http://www.campcoastcare.com  or contact Linda Fields, volunteer coordinator at linda@campcoastcare.com.