Post Katrina Reconstruction
In the fall of 2006 we were again contemplating a service-oriented trip abroad for members of our community. As we sat hunched over a map of the world, it didn’t take us long to pinpoint an area of great need: post-Katrina Louisiana and Mississippi. We sent a scout team of two to investigate the area and ascertain where and how we might contribute to the reconstruction still in full swing a year after the hurricane struck. Our scouts discovered and led us to the small, badly devastated town of Pearlington, Mississippi, where we met the warm, dedicated, and enthusiastic Larry Randall and Herb Ritchie, who together managed the Pearlington Recovery Center.
The Recovery Center coordinated the hundreds of volunteers who came to help with the rebuilding of homes in this town of less than 2,000. Pearlington had been largely neglected by the more official relief efforts that focused on bigger communities. We sent about 15 volunteers in one month to help rebuild homes here.
We stayed in the army-style barracks supplied to the volunteers, which we decorated with our cloths and colored Christmas lights to make our own. Each morning, we would divide our group into several different crews that would go out to work at different building sites. Our days were filled with drywalling, and plumbing, and drywalling, and roofing, and more drywalling! A few people would go each day as well to help cook and serve food at the soup kitchen organized in a local church to feed all the volunteers in town.
One night, we attended a service at the old Southern Baptist church in town and got to join in with the choir singing, “Lay my Burden Down.” Some evenings we helped cook dinner with and for the other volunteers from all over the country who were stationed with us at the Pearlington center. Though still in the US, we all felt like we had traveled to a foreign and unknown part of the country. We appreciated greatly the opportunity we got to mix our lives together for a time with the welcoming folks from Mississippi, who had been the recipients of such ill fortune.