THAT'S WHAT I'M TRYIN' TO TELL Y'ALL
It’s been over 12 years since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the the Mississippi and Louisiana gulf coast, but the scars it left behind are still visible. We tend to forget even the biggest news stories when they don’t directly impact us and the next news story comes along to replace it. But when something this devastating happens to your community, it becomes a way to delineate the passage of time. Talk to the nearly universally affable people of Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi, and their stories are marked as “before Katrina” and “after Katrina.” Although the spirit of these towns has recovered, countless neighborhoods still show the impact of the storm. Empty lots dot the coastal landscape; constant reminders of what happened and what is still left to do all these years later.
One organization still working diligently to heal coastal Mississippi is Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast (HFHMGC). Tasked with not only being a crucial part of the region’s recovery by building homes, they also provide resources and financial education services, and so much more. They rely on volunteers, Americorps, and a dedicated staff that is so understandably proud of their work, in love with their community, and enthusiastic, that their energy is unavoidably contagious. Bleary-eyed and still shaking off the mental cobwebs spun by a Wal-Mart parking lot slumber, we were greeted by Angela and Lucas when we first arrived. Like a shot of espresso, they had us ready and excited to get to work.
Just a few blocks from the coast, we spent a couple of days putting some finishing touches on a home in the form of painting, sanding, and installing hardware. Paul, our site leader, hails from New Orleans originally. With a smile inducing Cajun accent, he told us tales of his military experiences while making sure we weren’t going to mess up the house. Next door, another Habitat house is being built, and windows and doors were being installed by volunteers from the military, which has a huge presence in the area.
We also spent an afternoon working at their new ReStore, where they sell donated home furnishings and building supplies. Moving paint felt like a religious mission under the tutelage of Mohammed, one of the store managers.
We loved the experience so much, we are seriously considering going back for another day if our travels take us through the area again. Doing good feels good. As they say down here, “That’s what I’m tryin’ to tell y’all!”