Friday, March 31, 2006

Online NewsHour: Students Help Rebuild Houses After Hurricane Katrina -- March 29, 2006

Here is the direct link to the PBS video.

Online NewsHour: Students Help Rebuild Houses After Hurricane Katrina -- March 29, 2006

WLOX-TV - The News for South Mississippi: Gulfport Hurricane Victim Sleeping In His Car

WLOX-TV - The News for South Mississippi: Gulfport Hurricane Victim Sleeping In His Car: "
'It's not hard to sleep in a car if you want to,' he said.

It's not that May wants to sleep in his automobile. He doesn't have much choice.

'See I'm not too proud to sleep in there,' he said.

The hurricane damaged May's north Gulfport home. Yet, FEMA hasn't delivered a trailer to his property. Since his wife is now in a nursing home, May sleeps where he feels most comfortable.

'Sometimes in here,' he said, tapping on his car. 'Sometimes I stay with my grandson. But if his house is crowded, I won't stay there."

WLOX-TV - The News for South Mississippi: Giant Tree Stump In Downtown Bay St. Louis To Become Part Of A Katrina Memorial

If you were in downtown Bay St. Louis you probably saw this stump. It is huge.

WLOX-TV - The News for South Mississippi: Giant Tree Stump In Downtown Bay St. Louis To Become Part Of A Katrina Memorial: "The hurricane took out many landmarks in Bay St. Louis, but at least one will live on as part of a Katrina Memorial.

Mayor Eddie Favre has made it clear he wants to save a giant, old live oak tree stump. A sign posted on the top warns cleanup crews not to remove the stump, by order of the Mayor."

Thursday, March 30, 2006

No Hurricane Content-AMAZING VIDEO

This has no hurricane content, but a friend sent it to me and everyone should watch it. It is a video clip (2min 35 sec) of a woman with no hands. She is a mother who can type, grocery shop, even change diapers with her feet.

If you ever get in a bad mood or are feeling sorry for yourself, watch it. She has to be the most positive person I have ever seen. AMAZING!

Spring Break in Biloxi: Battling mold, months after Katrina

03.29.2006 - Spring Break in Biloxi: Battling mold, months after Katrina:
"This is the first in a series of dispatches from Judy Wang (left), a UC Berkeley third-year double major in molecular and cell biology and psychology. She’s on spring break in Mississippi, helping with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as part of the campus's Alternative Breaks program, which was created by students five years ago at the Cal Corps Public Service Center. She wrote this dispatch on Sunday, March 26, the second day of her trip to Biloxi"

and later:

"It is painfully obvious that it will take years and years for Biloxi, and the rest of the Gulf Coast, to redevelop and rebuild. People are slowly beginning to come back to Biloxi, but for the most part, ... where Katrina hit the hardest, it is reminiscent of a ghost town."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Online NewsHour: Video Search

At least temporarily the video is online:
Online NewsHour:

The Online NewsHour: Rebuilding the Gulf Coast | PBS

This was filmed when we were there! Unfortunately the audio is all that is online right now but listen anyway!

The Online NewsHour: Rebuilding the Gulf Coast | PBS:
"An organization called Hands on Network has brought students from a $35,000-tuition prep school in New Jersey to Biloxi, Miss. to help gut homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

The student volunteers say the experience has changed the way they look at their own lives and the things they take for granted."
While the focus is on Lawrenceville, UVA and SBU were also mentioned!

Mmm, I guess it's true, I really do have a face for radio. Not sure why the video is not online. (I am the one yelling "who is going to 632 Division?" and also making the speech near the end.)

City of Biloxi - Gulf Coast Mississippi

City of Biloxi - Gulf Coast Mississippi:
"Debris removal: Day 200 and counting – and hauling

The city’s debris removal efforts reached a milestone today, hitting Day 200.

To date, debris removal teams have hauled more than 2.3 million cubic yards of debris, enough to cover a football field and stand 108 stories high.

Jonathan Kiser, the city’s de facto debris czar helping oversee compliance and reimbursement, offers the breakdown on a debris hauling effort that has reached a $36 million price tag at this point.

Burnable debris: 434,511 cubic yards

Non-burnable: 1,837,088 cubic yards

Appliances: 32,884 cubic yards.

Electronics: 432 cubic yards"

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Hats off to the NY Board of Trade!!! Got to love those finance people ;)

The Sun Herald 03/26/2006 KATRINA DONATIONS:
"Pediatric patients in Bay St. Louis recently received a helping hand from commodity brokers in New York.Fred Mascia, president of the New York Board of Trade's philanthropic organization, 'Futures & Options for Kids,' traveled to Bay St. Louis on March 10 to deliver a check for $75,000 to the Hancock Medical Center Foundation. The money will be used to buy new equipment for the
pediatric unit, Chief Nursing Officer Angie Gambino said. Funds are targeted to replace pediatric beds, IV pumps, scales, glucose monitors, glider rocking chairs and wheelchairs."

Tight squeeze: Life inside FEMA trailer

Remember, right now there are thousands and thousadnds living in just such conditions and many in worse.

Tight squeeze: Life inside FEMA trailer:

"The new normal is the norm for many others these days. The Federal Emergency
Management Agency has provided travel trailers or mobile homes to more than
36,000 families in Mississippi since Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29.
Most families have their trailers set up on the remnants of their
hurricane-battered property - just like the McKays.

The McKays are living in two FEMA trailers in front of the skeletal remains of their 3,000-square-foot,
ranch-style home. Gus, a city official in nearby Bay St. Louis, shares one with
his wife and their two daughters. Their 23-year-old son, Gus III, a policeman,
shares the other with his 79-year-old grandmother.

Sure, it's crowded. But that's only a fraction of their problems."

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Not good news on the Biloxi Front

Bad News From the Sun-Herald
"A firm that worked with the Governor's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal has pulled out the planning process for the rebuilding of Biloxi.

Here's why: They said city leaders are letting developers drive the rebuilding process and also are allowing the destruction of the community's traditions"

and later in the same article:

""The messy cocktail of high-rise casinos and condos, multi-level parking garages, few remaining cottages and strip centers will be an even worse environment, and unpleasant place to live," the letter said. "The memory of East Biloxi will be scarred forever."" NewsFlash - Iowa librarian preserves historic documents harmed by Katrina NewsFlash - Iowa librarian preserves historic documents harmed by Katrina:
"written on blue hotel stationery by Jefferson Davis to then-U.S. President James K. Polk, had been among the rare manuscripts on display at Beauvoir, Davis' home, now a museum and library, in Biloxi, Miss.

Like so much of the Gulf Coast, the 52-acre estate was no match for Katrina's fierce winds and tidal surge. The storm tore part of the mansion's roof, leveled buildings, obliterated the library pavilion and washed the letter and a dozen other artifacts on display in the library's first floor more than 700 feet away.

Frost, a preservationist with the University of Iowa Library, volunteered his energy and expertise in the cleanup, and in doing so earned first crack at reclaiming Davis' damaged letter."

Online NewsHour: Pass Christian, Miss. Rebuilds After Katrina -- March 20, 2006

A sad look at Pass Christian MS. By some estimates the town has lost 80% of its population.

Online NewsHour: Pass Christian, Miss. Rebuilds After Katrina -- March 20, 2006:
"Some business activity has been restored. One Po' Boy sandwich shop is always busy. A couple of banks are open, and there's a tiny grocery store. But Rizzardi says the tax base has been decimated.

LOU RIZZARDI: Prior to the storm, we had a budget of about $6 million, which translates into about $500,000 a month if you average it out. Currently, we're taking in about perhaps $40,000 a month"

'Good news' on Gulf Coast arrives slowly - The Clarion-Ledger

'Good news' on Gulf Coast arrives slowly - The Clarion-Ledger:
"Just as I had been told, you have to come in person to see to really understand the ravage Katrina visited upon the area, with its unique culture and landscape.

Scenes and places that I fondly knew from many years of coming here - Bay St. Louis and Waveland - were sadly no longer recognizable to me.

What was readily apparent to me on my visit last week was that an incredible force had angrily bombed this wonderful part of the world virtually back to its primeval state."



Check out our new Website! It is NO WHERE near done, but you at least get a SMALL idea of where we are headed (pun intended).

Friday, March 24, 2006

TippyKayak--pictures and blog

I have to confess I fell way behind on reading over the trip and this reading also includes web reading. So I was pleased when I finally got caught up enough that I had time to read some of the reflection pieces that people have posted.

Check out this one by Pauline (AKA Tippy Kayak). READ UP. There are quite a few--and I purposely missed one or two ;)

Here is day -2, day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 4 Part B day 5-visiting other sites, day 6-bad day (I agree it was a bad day!), day 7, day 8 home

Also she has posted a few pictures:
TippyKayak: "For those who have read my blog recap of my trip to St. Bernards Parish, thank you. I now have pictures along with my commentary on my website at - click on BonaResponds."

Red Cross Sifting Internal Charges Over Katrina Aid - New York Times

Red Cross Sifting Internal Charges Over Katrina Aid - New York Times:
"The accusations include improper diversion of relief supplies, failure to follow required Red Cross procedures in tracking and distributing supplies, and use of felons as volunteers in the disaster area in violation of Red Cross rules.

There are no known official estimates of the cash or the value of supplies that might have been misappropriated, but volunteers who have come forward with accusations said the amount was in the millions of dollars. The Red Cross received roughly 60 percent of the $3.6 billion that Americans donated for hurricane relief. Mr. McGuire said the investigation started 'a number of weeks ago' and was continuing.

'We're in the middle of this, and we're looking at a range of possible problems,' he said, 'from issues between a few people that are really nothing other than bad will, to failure to follow good management principles and Red Cross procedures that have caused a lot of waste, to criminal activity.'"
After giving to the Red Cross after the Tsunami and Katrina, and then seeing first hand how high their expenses are then and now this, well I guess I better just shut up....

Handson on MTV! 4pm Saturday

This airs Saturday at 4PM eastern time. I saw parts of it being filmed. They worked with Handson out of Biloxi.

The Sun Herald | 03/14/2006 | Spring break? Amazing!:
"MTV News will bring worldwide viewers to Biloxi ...with daily reports about the network's alternative spring break, which is under way right now.

Its focus is more than 60 college students on MTV's 'The Amazing Break' as they gut and clean mold-infested structures in East Biloxi to help homeowners be able to eventually move back in.

A full documentary about the effort premieres Saturday, March 25, on MTV. The MTV group is among thousands of spring breakers from throughout the nation who are devoting their time off to Katrina recovery efforts.

About 4,000 students applied for 'The Amazing Break,' which is MTV's first venture into an alternative spring break, and 100 were chosen. About 36 went to Foley, Ala., to work on houses still damaged from Hurricane Ivan in 2004."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

HNP Today | Publications | Holy Name Province

The Holy Name Province newsletter provides the best description of the "welcome home". Here is a taste:

HNP Today | Publications | Holy Name Province:
"As images of their efforts rotated across a large screen in the university chapel, participants in the massive BonaResponds service trip greeted one another with hugs, smiles and high-fives in the afternoon of March 13."
One aspect that I had not seen reported elsewhere:
"Also during the service, at the request of the St. Bonaventure University friary community, the Province recognized 20 members of BonaResponds by awarding them the Francis Medal in honor of their leadership.

Established by the Province in 1998, the Francis Medal is awarded to 'recognize and express its deep appreciation to women and men who have advanced the values and ideals of St. Francis and/or generously assisted the friars in living and proclaiming the Gospel after the example of St. Francis of Assisi.'"

AP Wire | 03/22/2006 | Couple sues State Farm alleging fraud in claim denial

AP Wire | 03/22/2006 | Couple sues State Farm alleging fraud in claim denial:
"Forensic CEO Robert Kochan said his firm inspected between 160 and 175 storm-damaged homes for State Farm. In five or six of those cases, including the Mullins', engineers amended rough drafts of reports after developing new information about Katrina and how it damaged homes, he said.

'I will say categorically that State Farm never asked us to change our reports,' Kochan said. 'They did ask us to relook at and reconsider different factors that hadn't been presented to us initially.'"

Mmm...No comment.

A thank-you from a fellow volunteer

I do not have permission from the author (yet) so I will withhold his name, but I received this email today that really made my day. While he is writing on his experiences in Biloxi, I am sure there are people who could be saying the same things in Long Beach, Bay St. Louis, New Orleans, and St. Bernard's Parish. THANKS PEOPLE!!!

The email:
"My wife and I were in Biloxi the same week as some of your students skipped 'Spring Break' to perform a Service Break. I was working on a home up the street beside the house they were working on. They did a super job and it was a very strenuous one that a lot of older persons would not have been able to perform as well as they did. Yes, there were a lot of emotions involved.

I bought a gallon of drink and a box of cookies for them and just left it w/o saying much. They kept thanking me for it but I could only thank them for what they were giving of themselves.

After returning home yesterday I thought it would be appropriate that I donate some money in their (your students) honor. I would need their group name or some designation so they would receive some notice or at least they or their group/s, be made aware an honor was bestowed. The work we were doing was thru the Back Bay Mission a United Church of Christ unit in Biloxi who performs different community assistance programs, i.e. for the homeless, energy assistance, counseling, helping elderly, etc., year round. The money would be donated to Back Bay Mission."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Peanut Butter Jelly Time

If you were on the past MS trip (especially if you were in Biloxi or Long Beach) you'llunderstand ;)

Peanut Butter Jelly Time

AASU Students Find $30K in Kartrina-Damaged Home

AASU Students Find $30K in Kartrina-Damaged Home:
"What would you do if you found more than $30,000? Two girls from Armstrong Atlantic State University did just that and are making national news.

Trista Wright and Haley Barton were on their spring break cleanup trip in New Orleans when they found more the money in the debris and walls of one woman's home.

The girls were cleaning out a home which had been destroyed by water. Wright was in a small closet and moved what seemed to be an air conditioner vent from the wall when money just started pouring out."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

3 more bodies found in block of Lower 9

Student volunteers find more bodies in New Orleans


3 more bodies found in block of Lower Ninth Ward:
"Fire Department recovery workers, tipped off by student volunteers who were clearing Katrina debris, found three bodies on the same block in the Lower 9th Ward, a New Orleans fire chief said Monday."
later in the same article:
"The discovery of the bodies in the 2400 block of Tupelo Street, near the St. Bernard Parish line -- two of them within 20 feet of each other in the same debris pile -- brings to seven the number of bodies discovered since the special operations unit of the Fire Department resumed recovery work on March 2, said Fire Chief Steve Glynn, chief of special operations for the New Orleans Fire Department.

He said six have been found in the Lower 9th Ward, and one in Lakeview. Most have been found under the debris of collapsed or shifted houses. Only one has been found in a house that was still standing -- in an attic.

None of the bodies has been identified....'

and later still:

"Sunday about 2:30 p.m., a group of students, who were volunteering their spring break to help clean debris from homes, noticed what looked like human remains in a pile of debris where a house once stood...

After recovery workers uncovered those remains, a dog and handler from a Shreveport fire department indicated the presence of another body about 20 feet away, Glynn said."

Nagin accepts BNOB blueprint

Nagin accepts BNOB blueprint:
"After eliminating all recommendations that would have prohibited any of the city's neighborhoods from participating in its rebuilding process, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Monday night presented a blueprint for restoring and improving the hurricane-devastated city."
From Yahoo's AP version:
"Mayor Ray Nagin presented his plan for resuscitating this hurricane-battered city, saying residents should be allowed to rebuild anywhere — as long as they do so at their own risk."
and later:
"The plan comes two months after the mayor's advisory commission, formed after Katrina struck Aug. 29, recommended that some flooded neighborhoods be replaced with parks and that the city take a go-slow attitude in rebuilding low-lying areas. But that suggestion was greeted with jeers and outrage at public meetings."

Public lifelines to knowledge in crisis - The Clarion-Ledger

Vastly underreported in the frenzy about the baseball and softball equipment collections that BonaResponds did, has been the book collections. Led by Becky Kessler and Emily Meehan and with the help of surrounding schools (Archbishop Walsh, Allegany, and Otto Eldred Elementary) "we" collected about 3,500 books that went to Biloxi's Pass Road Elementary for dispersal to the surrounding communities.

As the following shows, these books were very much needed!

Public lifelines to knowledge in crisis - The Clarion-Ledger:
"The Mississippi Library Commission estimates public library damages at $24 million for facilities and $15 million for library materials, furniture and equipment, according to the American Library Association.

According to the association, 73 elementary schools and 64 junior high and high school libraries were damaged or destroyed. They lost $32 million worth of books and $6 million worth of other supplies."

Monday, March 20, 2006

A life changing experience — really: Young Seneca Falls woman decides to give up grad school to help full-time

A life changing experience — really: Young Seneca Falls woman decides to give up grad school to help full-time:
"“As time goes by … it seems that people forgot what happened down there,” Francis said. “It’s surprising how many people don’t know; it’s not on the news anymore."
and also :

"Ceccarelli, who worked in New Orleans, said she and the volunteers were stunned when they saw the devastation firsthand.

A bus full of chatter turned silent as the helpers made their way into the city, where Ceccarelli witnessed empty plazas, abandoned cars in the middle of roads and garbage everywhere – six months after the disaster, she noted.

“I can say the entire bus was shocked,” said Ceccarelli, who was among 35 Bonaventure volunteers working with Hands On in the inner city of New Orleans."

Read the whole article!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Online NewsHour: Domino Sugar Plant Reopens After Rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina --March 8, 2006

Online NewsHour: Domino Sugar Plant Reopens After Rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina --March 8, 2006:
"House thinks he's among the luckier residents of St. Bernard Parish. That's because he works at the Domino Sugar refinery that towers over the Mississippi River, east of New Orleans. When the plant was flooded, along with most of the rest of the parish, Domino's executives created a 200-unit trailer park to house its workers and their families. At a time when most of his neighbors have nothing, House has his job, his family nearby, and a place to live."
Be sure to watch the video! It is about about 7 and a half minutes.

Storm aid - The Clarion-Ledger

Storm aid - The Clarion-Ledger:
"The House on Thursday passed a $19 billion aid package that was directed primarily to work in Louisiana that included $4.2 billion in Community Development Block Grants to help uninsured flood victims.

Bush asked for all that money to go to Louisiana. But the House wisely did not designate the money for any one state, leaving all affected storm victims including those in Mississippi eligible.

And 4th District U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Bay St. Louis, won a major victory when he got a $55 million amendment to rebuild two military exchange stores in Mississippi.

All storm victims deserve equal access to Katrina aid funds. But 'looting Louisiana?' We beg to differ."

Persevere Volunteers

Looking to help in the Gulf region? Check out Persevere Volunteers.

It is Bill Driscoll (Jr's) new group. It is going to be a great way to help directly in the Bay St. Louis/Waveland/Pass Christian area.
Full Disclosure: I was just named to the Persevere's Board of Directors, so I might be a tad biased! ;)

Altar provides hope, education to faithful

Altar provides hope, education to faithful:
"'Three of the diocese churches were leveled to nothing,' said the Rev. Mike Austin, pastor at St. Joseph. 'St. Michael's in Biloxi and Our Lady of the Gulf in Bay St. Louis were both washed out. The only thing left standing was the outside frame, and St. Peter's in Pascagoula is gone. (Our Lady of Victories) was washed out, along with Sacred Heart in Pascagoula."
I saw the Lady Of the Gulf last week. Amazing buildng that is literally on the Gulf. What a view! Obviously it recieved damage, but not as much as I might have guessed for the area.

Buffalo News - Bona drive brings cries of 'play ball' to Katrina kids

Very cool article in the Buffalo News on our Little League Drive!

Buffalo News - Bona drive brings cries of 'play ball' to Katrina kids:
"Plant a seed and sometimes you end up with a beanstalk that reaches to the sky."

It's going to happen. They'll be playing softball in Bay St. Louis later this spring, baseball in neighboring Waveland. Players have begun to register. It's looking like interest might be at an all-time high."
Very cool!

Friday, March 17, 2006


Life has been quite surreal since Katrina's wrath was unleashed. Those of us who survived are doing are best to rebuild what we can. Help has come from all over the world and for that we are thankful but just to make sure you don't forget that we still need help after Katrina's proverbial "15 minutes" have expired we shall be here to remind you.
Ben Marble, M.D.

Be sure to watch the videos! Wow.

St. Bonaventure University: SBU Responds to Katrina

St. Bonaventure University: SBU Responds to Katrina: "Mandy Bottomlee, a senior in the Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism/Mass Communication, posted daily reports of the clean-up work done by more than 250 members of the St. Bonaventure University community."

St. Bonaventure University: SBU Responds to Katrina

St. Bonaventure University: SBU Responds to Katrina: "Mandy Bottomlee, a senior in the Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism/Mass Communication, posted daily reports of the clean-up work done by more than 250 members of the St. Bonaventure University community."

Thursday, March 16, 2006

St. Bonaventure University: Homerun! Students' collection equips young ball players

St. Bonaventure University: Homerun! Students' collection equips young ball players:
"The softball league representatives have extended an open invitation for him to attend or possibly ump a game. “We’re definitely going back this summer,” he said.

“I look forward to reciprocating to everyone who came down here and helped us. I can’t wait to show them how much we appreciate it,” Sires added. "

St. Bonaventure University: Just quotes...

St. Bonaventure University: Just quotes...:
"I could not be more proud of our students. They were up early each morning and had positive attitudes as they cleaned mold;tore down walls; pulled up flooring; cleared debris; cut trees; put on roofs and performed countless other tasks. This was tough physical labor and they did it without complaint. The entire Bonaventure family was represented, students, graduates, faculty, staff, friends of grads, sons of grads; sisters of grads, member of the NAB, the friars, and brothers. Quite simply, it was incredible. This truly was the Franciscan spirit in action.'

— Maureen Keenan LeBoeuf, University trustee"

St. Bonaventure University: University welcomes home massive service trip

St. Bonaventure University: University welcomes home massive service trip:
"ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y., March 14, 2006 — As images of their efforts rotated across a large screen in the University Chapel, participants in the massive BonaResponds service trip greeted one another with hugs, smiles and high-fives Monday afternoon. "

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Buffalo News - Unique spring break says a lot about kids

Tom Missel in today's Buffalo News on the trip:

Buffalo News - Unique spring break says a lot about kids:
"The 2003 basketball scandal might have emotionally drained the campus community for a short time, but it never made folks here waver from their mission: to teach students how they can best serve the world with a perfect blend of intelligence and compassion. (The full-blown mission statement is a tad wordier, but that pretty much sums it up.)

What this remarkable trip revealed to me was a hidden truth about Bona students. They might have cell phones glued to their ears and might not own any pants without holes. But they also have hearts bigger than the Grinch's that Christmas Day, bursting with a passion to help others I didn't believe possible on such a grand scale - more than 200 students on a campus of just over 2,000."

From my "good bye" comments at Hand-On Biloxi

The night before the students left Biloxi I had the opportunity to speak to everyone at the nightly Hands-On meeting. I was asked for some comments for the Board of Trustees meeting.

It is obviously paraphrased:

"This is not "good bye". It is "until next time". I am sure I (and many of our other volunteers) will be back. But don't think
you are going to get off that easily, I am still going to take
the opportunity to speak for a few minutes,

First of all, thank you all. Thank you to the Hand-on leadership and to all of the volunteers. You are the best. That you stay focused in such a stressful and changing evnviroment is amazing. Thank you!

I also want to remind everyone from my students to the long-term volunteers, that this is about more than just your time in the Gulf. It is about more than a week. There is something magical about this place.

I have tried. I have had endless conversations with past (and present) volunteers about what the magic is. I am still looking for the right words. While I don't know how to define it, it is something that makes us all better people. I would encourage all of you to appreciate that, to enjoy it, to take it all in. But also to learn from it.

These nightly meetings are among my favorite parts of the day. I love to hear what other groups did and to hear how the time here affected others. On my second trip here, a volunteer said something at a meeting that I remember almost every day, and not coincidentally, something that may explain the "magic".

He said that he was a better person when he was here. He cared for people, he didn't swear, and he was nice to his fellow volunteers. More importantly he challenged us all to be that better person when we go home. I offer you the same challenge.

We did not put this trip together for the week. It was not a vacation trip. It is a learning experience. The time you spend here should be felt long after we leave the region.

Of course the people you have helped will be eternally grateful and to that degree, we can say the trip has been a success, but the real impact shoule also be felt back at home.

No matter where home is, you can take a piece of Handson with you. You can take that magic. Be that person you wish you could be: help others, care for your neighbors, volunteer at the local humane society, help out at the soup kitchen in your town, or just take the time to listen to those in need. If you do that, this trip will really be a success!"

Tuesday, March 14, 2006 | Daily Comet | Thibodaux, LA | Daily Comet | Thibodaux, LA:
"There may be no hurricane recovery for the Chandeleur Islands because 90 percent of the island chain located 30 miles south of Biloxi is underwater, a scientist says.

Chandeleur Islands has been battered by four hurricanes since 2001, including Hurricane Katrina in August. Katrina's eroding force - combined with the past storms - virtually obliterate the sand islands, the U.S. Geological Survey said."

From shelter to food, Katrina help arrives when needed

From shelter to food, Katrina help arrives when needed:
"This is Miami Beach compared to what it was six months ago,” says alderman Chipper McDermott, as he drives around what remains of his town, which had a population of around 6,500 before Katrina.

“When all that help and all those volunteers first came, that seems like a hundred years ago to me.”
“Camille blew harder,” thinks McDermott, “but it didn’t bring as much water with it.”

Ultimately, water was the fatal blow that doomed so many homes in the area.....

In the Timber Ridge section of Pass Christian, out of 400 homes, not even one was in livable condition after Katrina. Even houses that weren’t shredded or lifted off their foundations were too saturated with water to be considered intact."

Can you find the SBU people?

Look hard, there are quite a few :)



Another very cool website/blog/database of a Handson volunteer is It is Nick's site. (Nick of fire- twirling fame). The site it really quite amazing.

"Everyone, no matter who they are, what they've done, or are doing, has the potential for greatness. All they need is a bit of inspiration, be it in the form of music, poetry, prose, imagery, or a real life example.

Eventually there will be music lyrics, biographies, and other resources here, as well as links to sites that inspire me. For now, you can browse my journals from the relief work I did in Thailand and Mississippi. Its sorted by month on the left."
He also provided a look at what is happening at Handson on a regular basis and some unreal pictures of the destruction.

You definitely want to bookmark this one!

Hands on - Biloxi, MS

I did not know Beth had a blog. Now I do (and so do you!)

Hands on - Biloxi, MS: "Two days ago, Lawrenceville prep school from New Jersey arrived with 50 eager and willing high schoolers. Prior to their arrival, we were turning over one house every couple of days in the mold process due to lack of numbers and interest. Now, we are turning over four houses a day! Another group from St. Bonaventure College from New York arrived today, and we will be turning over five houses a day. The huge burden of taking on an enormous task with only a little help has been lifted, and by the end of the month, we will have approximately 150 homes demolded and ready to be rebuilt!"

Monday, March 13, 2006

Hands On Network - Get Hands On in the Gulf Region!

I've had several people ask me for the contact info for Handson in Biloxi. So here you go!

Hands On Network - Get Hands On in the Gulf Region!: "Volunteers are still desperately needed. Hands On Network is continuing and supporting the outstanding work of Hands On USA in the Gulf Region. The volunteer center at Pass Road in Biloxi will remain open for changemakers in the foreseeable future.

Please join us! To schedule a volunteer trip to Biloxi, please send an email to or call 228-257-6094."

The Sun Herald | 03/09/2006 | PBS comes to school

The Sun Herald | 03/09/2006 | PBS comes to school:
"Other than the loss of everything? I know it's still very emotional for the teachers, because we're still fighting FEMA, we're still fighting the insurance,' said Davis. 'There's not a day that goes by that a buddy teacher's not watching your class and you're on the phone with somebody trying to get an adjustor or a contractor or somebody.'

Kim Stasny, superintendent of the Bay-Waveland School District, welcomed the scrutiny.

'I think it's going to help us get the message out that we haven't recovered. And that we are still in the process, and we still need help,' she said."
On Thursday and Friday the production crew was at Handson in Biloxi. The producer said he would email when it is going to air. Stay tuned.)

Sun-Herald story, now with pictures!

Yesterday's story now has pictures!
Helping Hands

An "anonymous" post on the trip

I did not get permission to use this, so I will not list his/her name.

"Helloooooo and welcome back to rainy, dreary St. Bonaventure. Haha.

"I'm hooked.

I've already set a date to get back to Biloxi-- the Saturday after the last day of exams. I've also recruited a good crew from home to come with me. I was wondering if you had the number to Hands On, because I'm assuming I'll probably have to let them know when I'm coming and how many I'm bringing.

That aside, I guess I just want to thank you for making this opportunity available, because it was truly life-changing. I mean, I knew before we left that there would be no way I could regret the experience. But I also didn't have any way of expecting the many ways one week down there could affect me to the point that as we were loading the bus, I was thinking, "Maybe I could just hide in my tent. They'd never know, they'd never miss me. Who needs a college degree anyways?"

My life is in such a different persepective right now it's almost a little unnerving."

John Zimmer's top ten list

"The Warden's" Top 10 Reasons To Spend a Service Week at Hands On Gulf

10. Getting re-acquainted with technical operation of mops, mopwringers, and buckets
9. A week of sleeping accommodations on floor or ground in close proximity to people you barely know
8. Waking up at 5:00 AM to the "Muppets" theme song playing on a nearby cellular telephone alarm
7. A week of cafeteria "cuisine" that includes a week of peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunches
6. After a day of physical work, looking forward to being number 25 on the shower line list
5. Time to stop and perform a "reality check" on our relatively easy lives in suburbia
4. Opportunity to redefine the words "evangelization" and "outreach" in practical, visible ways
3. A week devoted exclusively to attending to the needs of others truly deserving and needing of our time and talent
2. Ability to attain some level of "holiness" without detaching yourself from the real world
1. A chance to quietly leave a small piece of the world a little happier than it was before you arrived

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Two sad updates

Both of these are sad.

1. Mrs. Keenan (Maureen Keenan-LeBoeuf's mom) died today. Maureen worked with us in Biloxi and went way beyond the call of duty!

2. Jerre (who Maureen worked tirelessly for) also died today. Jerre was the person who was living in a van. Surely, he will not officially count as a Katrina Death, but just as surely, Katrina played a major role in his death.

Dr. Bob has visited with him on Saturday AM and reported that he (Jerre) was alert and talking about how it comforted him so that these "angels" were caring for him.

Thanks "guys" for making his last days on earth more comfortable.

Dr. Bob sent this update:
"Jerre passed away at the VA hospital about 4 pm yesterday. In medical speak he had end-stage respiratory disease and a bad heart; the final event was probably a massive pulmonary embolus. He never woke up after that first arrest on Saturday evening.

In the speak of compassionate and concerned friends and volunteers, Jerre died of a 'broken heart'. Diseased, despondant, and discouraged, his last 3 days of life were brightened by those angels of mercy who descended upon him with compassion and eased the accumulated, heart-breaking, suffering he endured since Katrina. The only miraculous thing here, is that he endured so long, against such odds that would fell a healthy giant. His last words to me on Saturday morning, when he was "feeling so much better", were : "take good care of yourself now, ya hear !"

This humbled and devastated man gave US, so much more than WE were able to give him. Now, he is finally at rest.

There is more to do here for the faithful - y'all come back ."

The Sun Herald | 03/12/2006 | Helping ands

Dr. Bob just called to tell me about this. I guess there are several pictures as well in the actual paper (but not online)

The Sun Herald | 03/12/2006 | Helping ands:
"After coming down here in October, I felt like it was something I had to do,' Francis said. 'It completely changed what I want to do with my life. I feel something like this will make me much happier.'

Francis is one of about 300 students, faculty, alumni and community members from St. Bonaventure who spent last week ripping floors and walls out of houses destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Members of the group said they were working hard, but they're also having fun. The radio blared at one home they were gutting in East Biloxi, and students sang at the top of their lungs as they hauled out drywall and tile.

Their words were muffled by the masks they wore, but their enthusiasm was clear as they sang along to 'Don't Stop Believin' ' by Journey. The students said it is an appropriate song for South Mississippi.

More in article.
'It's amazing to be able to help people,' said Meghan Backus, also a senior at St. Bonaventure who came to the Coast in October and immediately began planning the spring-break trip."

Friday, March 10, 2006

What a week!

It was quite a week! Of course not everything went as we had hoped but enough did go right that it was an excellent week.

The experiences at all the sites were somwhat different and I hope to be "blogging" about these differences in the coming days and weeks. However, it is sufficient to say that things went very well.

Today I spent the day doing what I like to do the most in Biloxi: gutting houses. It was the house that would not give up: a duplex that had been remodeled seemingly every day. This led to some unusual things including 10 layers of flooring in the basement and 4 ceilings throughout most of the house. Today we took down ceilings and walls in about 5 rooms. It is not quite done since we had to leave early to cath the bus.

I was beyond dirty by the end. I looked like I had been a coal miner. I will upload pictures from back in Olean.

Then, after saying they could not come to the get together of all the groups (one of several things that left me scatching my head this week), the buses arrived in Biloxi about an hour before the dinner and then had to wait until everyone ate.

At the dinner many people said they were ready to come maybe.

Remember to sign up for the Yahoo group t0 upload pictures and to speak with others.

Thanks everyone (well most everyone ;) ) for a great week!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Josh on what it is like in West Gulfport and a bit on "interiors" i.e. house gutting

MP3 File
Update from the airport powered by Brother Ed

MP3 File

Thursday AM update from Biloxi--Written

You know it is a good trp when you begin dreading its end. That is where I find myself. Wednesday Morning it began to hit me: we are only going to be here a few more days.

A few very fast updates:r

* Great news, I THINK we have arranged a home for the donated hopsital beds. Thanks NATE!

* I know the need the tax revenue, but it is sad to see towering casinos along side destroyed homes.

* The audio updates are so cool. Be sure to try them out!

* Mike Kasperski (New Orleans), Fr. Bob (SBP), Pauline Hoffmann(SBP) and their bus driver Calvin toured all of the camps and got a tour of the Biloxi area.

* Meghan arranged an interview with the Mayor of Gulfport.

* Brother Ed left just now (9:00 AM on Thursday). It is so sad to leave. It is even sad when friends leave. I did not know him at all before this trip planning began but what a cool guy. If you don't know him, you should make a big effort to meet him!

* It is sad to see people picking through the debris that has been put at curbside.

* 177 Lee is now a three day gutting job. It is a duplex that is really taking some time. In spite of the hard work, it has been a fun time.

* Rain is promised but has not come.

* The truck with the baseball equipment and the books is scheduled to arrive in Bay St. Louis by 12:00 today. Books will be distributed today in BSL, Friday in Biloxi.

* I ran three times yesterday!! I had only planned two, but at 10pm, when Bill Driscoll called to run, I could not say no.

* Fr. Dan came in for the rest of the week. He is doing the street crew today.

More later!!! I am finally going back out after a few hours of "office catch-up"


Update from Maureen on Jerre

9 March 2002 @ 0500

Update on Jerre

Kathleen and I picked Jerre up at his van on 8 March at about 8:20, we were not expected but was very happy to see us. We drove to FEMA to get Jerre enrolled. Fortunately we were directed to Mr. Fred Boykin a retired Army First Sergeant. Mr. Boykin connected with Jerre immediately, they had both served in Viet Nam. He asked Jerre if he was enrolled in the agent orange program, he was not. So, Mr. Boykin called the VA hospital and scheduled an appointment for a physical on 9 March at 9:30. The physical is the first step in getting enrolled into the program. He also talked with Jerre about the “Homeless Veterans” program. Jerre had not heard about this program and there is a possibility that he could move to Alabama to a VA facility. Jerre commented that he would be interested in the program. Next we went to get Jerre enrolled in FEMA. A process that Jerre said he had tried three or four times without success. It took no longer than 15-20 minutes to get his information into the system. There was however, one piece of paper that FEMA needs; proof that Jerre was living at the VA hospital in Gulfport when the hurricane hit. After departing FEMA we went to the VA hospital and actually found the correct office, the right individual and obtained the piece of paper.

While we were sitting in a waiting room at the VA hospital a man sat down, looked at Jerre and said he looked familiar. Not unusual in a military setting. The man asked Jerre if he was homeless; had lived elsewhere; had a couple of sisters; and tools (Jerre mentioned to us that he had left a lot of tools behind in Gulfport). He then said the police were showing his picture around and that he had been reported as missing by his family. Jerre wanted to go to the police station to find out if in fact his sisters were looking for him. We explained his story, his name was entered into the computer, the clerk then informed Jerre that there was an outstanding warrant against him. My visions of a family finding out a loved one was not dead, quickly vanished. A sergeant explained to Jerre that he would be processed and then meet with the judge. During his processing the sergeant came out to talk with me about Jerre. He was released with a court date of later this month.

Today I will go with another student to pick Jerre up and transport him to the VA hospital for his physical.

This is one story of one person who is a victim of hurricane Katrina. It is extremely sad.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Audio Update from Bay St. Louis

Matt reports on what has been going on in Bay St. Louis

MP3 File

Audio Update From Long Beach

Kayrn (of Peanut Butter Jelly Fame!) reports from LB

MP3 File

Audio update by Jim in Biloxi

An audio update by Jim (via cell phone) for Wednesday

MP3 File

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A guest blogger: Dr. Bob

This is from Dr. Bob. He is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He is a regular at Handson.
"Dear friends and family,

"Packed together like Sardines in a can", is an expression that we often heard used to describe a situation such as exists on subway trains during the morning and evening rush hours in cities (like New York, where I spent the first 20+ years of my life). Of course, exotic and remote places like TOKYO, are often taken as examples and shown in films to illustrate the hectic and crowded pace of life in the 20th Century. But here in Biloxi ? Well, yes, here in Biloxi, former population 50,000, now 50% part- time residents and volunteers, the other 50%, old-timers who have managed to survive Katrina with their homes liveable.

Yesterday, 5 Hands On volunteers and I were introduced to GERRY, who lives in a storm-surged VAN (that's VAN, as in motor vehicle, not CAN, as in "sardine"). Virginia, his neighbor and local street "Kingpin" as Gerry called her, met Elizabeth (from Ohio) and I as we made our rounds on Lilly street in east Biloxi. Virginia, a recipient of a free winter coat on a cold and cloudy November morning, remembered me as "Mr. Bob, the doctor with Hands On USA". She wanted to show me the 'loaner' house she was camped out in, pending its demolition later this week. It was then that Virginia was forward enough to ask if I would "look in on Gerry, who was a very sick man". On the lot next to the one on which the 'loaner' house stood, was a storm ravaged van, former property of the owner of the lot on which the van sat, askew, 25 feet from the street, surrounded by a lone tree and the residual debris of the house once standing nearby. The "house" had been toppled or crushed and carted off by the contractor hired by FEMA and the City of Biloxi to eliminate all of the "dangers to health and safety" - former houses and "radical makeovers" created by the powerful and destructive forces of Katrina's nature.

Two neighborhood friends of Gerry's sat under the tree, visiting (or in vigil) with Gerry, who himself lay on one of the van's bench seats, turned sideways and facing the open sliding passenger door of the van - a rearrangement of the 'furniture' that permitted Gerry to exit and enter the Van more readily. You see, Gerry has become so short of breath from his Emphysema, High Blood Pressure, Congestive Heart Failure, and the other ravages of deconditioning, depression and repeated hopitializations, as to render him a disabled cardio-pulmonary cripple.
Gerry lay flat on his side, his face a pasty bluish hue, his breathing shallow and rapid, and his eyes closed, not in sleep for he was easily aroused by Virginia's greeting, but perhaps so as to mute his discomfort, and to shut out the world around him which, except for a few faithful and watchful neighbor-friends, offered him little ease.

Gerry sat up, with a pained and stiff effort, and acknowledge our greeting with a hoarse and weak voice. Like almost all the residents we encounter on our Street Team rounds, his initial reply to our "How 'ya doin", was to say, " well sir, I'm makin' it: takin' one day at a time, jest as it come" I t was obvious that Gerry was barely doing that - hanging in there, on the fine tightrope of advancing age and advancing disease, up where the slightess breeze could, at any moment, blow you down. He next told how his "biggest" problem right now was that he couldn't feel anything in his feet and legs, and that they were so weak, and he so "short on breath' with the least exertion - such as exiting the van to walk the few feet to a make shift biffy in order to pee - and dreading the awful minutes after such exertion that revealed in all its pathetic fullness, just how miserable a body his heart and soul was condemned to live in.

The van is a wreck, remaining in place at the oversight, or the mercy, of the demolition crew who were here just a day or two ago. Yet this is home for Gerry, surrounded by caring friends and visiting (and now caring) volunteers.
For two years before Katrina made him a displaced person and cast his lot among the thousands of healthier folk evacuated to "safety", he was a resident at the Veterans Administration Long Term Care facility in Gulfport. The facility is located near Beach Boulevard and faces the Mississippi Sound (Gulf of Mexico). Two hours before Katrina made landfall the director of the Home gave an evacuation order. Buses and other vehicles were hastily commandeered, and the residents were taken to a temporary triage building on one of the nearby military installations. A day or tow later they were moved, en masse to a Shelter. It was there that Gerry and the other 'sardines' spent a few weeks, until ad hoc FEMA 'social workers' could "assist them with placement in alternative housing. The choices were neither convenient nor local, and therefore, not attractive. Gerry chose to take his chances, and to go "home". It was then a friend was approached and offered Gerry the VAN.

It must be one thing to be one lowly sardine packed into a can with a dozen others, than to be one sardine in one can, alone. Gerry opted for the latter; who could blame him ? Neighbor-friends have called 911 twice in the past 65 weeks, and each time Gerry has been hospitalized at the VA hospital in west Biloxi. The VA hospital, situated as it is in the Katrina district, is not op[erating at full capacity, nor is it fully staffed or supplied - yes, even 6 months after Katrina came by. Gerry was discharged on Feb, 23rd, with a supply of the 10 medications he needs, and an order for oxygen "to be sent to his home". There is no oxygen in the van. Did the supplier not receive the order? Did they ignore it because other, more important, veterans need it first? Was the delivery truck unable to find his house because all they could see, when he was out cashing his benefits check, was an old wreck of a Van lying on the lot, and no one could be living in the debris pile that was once the house? Yes, Gerry does have a clearly marked mail box, at the sidewalk, with the house number on it.

Two days ago, again when Gerry was take for a ride by a neighbor, someone entered his van and took all his medication pills, leaving only his inhaler - a drug seeker or supplier, no doubt. Desperate Katrina victims preying on other victims, Two weeks earlier, shortly after discharge for the hospital, two strangers entered his van, while Gerry was sitting in it, and with threat to violence walked off with the $700 he had just that day brought back to the Van after cashing his benefits check. "It was stupid of me to do that, but I need the cash and didn't know where else to stash it, so's I could get at it easily".

Last night I shared Gerry's story and our observations, with the other Volunteers (260 of us 'packed like sardines' in our dining hall). Today I will get him a temporary supply of medications (it will take a week for the VA clinic to have his pharmacy request ready for pick up). Three others will visit him at his van and see what they can do to clean and straighten up the place,including laundering his pile of clothing and blankets. Others have already arranged to "build" some kind of sheltering roof over the Van, and perhaps a bench, so that visiting friends don't have to sit in Gerry's wheelchair (which the VA managed to deliver to his address 2 weeks ago). I heard enough feed-back after last night's report at HQ to sense that other help will be coming: Jonathan from Virginia wants to take Gerry to the VA clinics and , if possible pick up his oxygen, which Gerry desperately needs to use to forestall his demise, at least needs so that he can lie down and sleep at night.

What more we witnessed on our Street Rounds yesterday testified to the gracious beauty of neighbor helping neighbor, the love of family, the realization that, despite nearly overwhelming losses, in is within our God-given power to rise above our pain and suffering, discover that which is truly necessary and important to a whole and healthy life, and to find some ray of hop and happiness. As we said our temporary good-bys to Gerry yesterday, he sat up, smiling and even pink in color, and thanked us over and over for coming to visit him - and he, as yet, knows nothing about what more we will bring to his SARDINE HOME in the days ahead. No matter, the finest gift we can give him, and all the residents here, is a very simple one - it is our very presence and our concern. Gerry's neighbors, who have precious little themselves, showed us the way. There is little we cannot do, if we see Katrina's devastation with a human face.


Monday: Even better

another short one post--but what a great day!

* all teams reported a great day!

I am way too tired to write much more..

I will say that all teams worked hard! THANKS!

Monday: Even etter

Monday, March 06, 2006

First the report

Short version: Overall a good day--I spoke with people from 4 of the 5 sites and all were thrilled. After a slow start, things went almost as scripted: lots of work, fun, and even some reflection meetings. GREAT day.

We have a few things to correct, but I am sure that things will work out very well!

More later

Sunday, March 05, 2006

From Dr. Bob

Dr. Bob forwarded this one to me from the Washington Post. As he said in his email: it fits the Hands-On experience very well!
"They sleep in church sanctuaries, RVs and tents. They leave behind jobs, schools and retirement for labor pilgrimages of days, weeks or months. Some have taken drastic measures, selling their homes and leaving family to move to the crushed Gulf Coast to devote themselves full time."

Another "blog" of our trip

The official blog of the trip (does that make this the unauthorized edition--how cool is that? ;) )? can be found off of the page. Check it out.

Time to get to work!

Well the buses are here (they arrived this evening) and tomorrow the fun begins! It really is amazing to see so many Bona people here.

In Biloxi we just shopped for about 150 people. It was not as much fun as you would suspect. LOL...

Tomorrow we are having a picnic in Hancock County to give te little leagues their equipment. Also we are doing about 7 or 8 different jobs at out Biloxi site. Everything from molding abatement (which is what I think I am doing) to more house gutting, to administration, to preparing breakfast and lunch.

I haev had several people ask what has changed, so a VERY brief list:
  1. Wood walkways reduce the dirt getting into the building.
  2. Third stairway is completed
  3. Streets are MUCH cleaner
  4. No more Free Lunches. No MREs so Lunch is whatever leftovers we have plus sandwiches etc.
  5. The Humans Societ moved today.
  6. Quieter at lights out.
  7. Braclets to ID everyone.
What has not changed:
Many really cool people are doing tons of reallly good work!

Much of today was spent running erands and waiting for the buses. Although we did get to shop for 160 people.

It is always exciting to see others from past trips. Ran into Bill Driscoll (Sr.) tonight.

well I am exhausted and tomorrow we have to prep breakfast, so I better get going.

some video coverage of our trip!

I cross posed this on the Bonaserves blog.

It is from Channel 2 in Buffalo. The video is good too!

"There are so many other things we could be doing on Spring Break. But to go do something that's worthwhile and do something that actually means something on a Spring Break, it's exciting," said Saint Bonaventure student Matt Lundgren.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

And not a bad one in the bunch!

Today the student site leaders and myself toured the 5 sites where we will be working over the next week. We went from Biloxi to St. Bernards Parish and back.

A very quick recap:

HandsonNetwork-Gulf Coast (Biloxi: While we did not get into East Biloxi, the area around Pass Road and the Airport is looking much much better. Most garbage is cleaned up, and some construction has started.

The site is largely unchanged since before. One large improvement from my last trip ois an extra 2 showers. I do not know how many people are here today, but it seems the least of my three trips. That will change quickly however!

CampCostCare (Long Beach): housed in a gymnasium on a fairly rural road, this is where over 100 of our volunteers will be staying. It is clean, rural, and well organized by a great grop of people led by Van.

Handson Network-Bay St. Louis: this is being housed in a school across from A church. This site has been in business for a while but is now sort of doing a joint venture with Handson. Today Handson was putting in showers for volunteers. The site is being led by Fr. Sebastian and Beau from Handson. The area is devastated beyond words.

Handson Network-New Orleans: again this site is just coming on line. The multilevel facility has unbelievable potential. They are working on the fringes of the Garden district. This site is definitely going to be operational for years to come. While I would not like the running environs, this looks like a site where you can make a big impact on an area very quickly.

Common-Ground in Violet (St. Bernard Parish). This area is easily 4 months behind. Gutting work is still going on as the people's suffering continues. This will be the most primitive of our camps as they are still running on generator power!

What great camps. We never expected to have such a great set of camps to work with. Upon leaving every camp today, I always felt envious of those staying to work.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A second email from a stranger (A must read!)

After Gary's first email I responded and told him about our trip. I also asked him if I could use his email in the blog. His response (again only slightly edited).

While I would encourage you to read the whole thing, YOU MUST READ THE three paragraphs following "I still keep in touch". WOW.

I will keep an eye on the blog. If anything I wrote can help then please use it .

The need down there is still so real though.

I still keep in touch with the group I went down there with and they are making once-a-month trips. There was a trip at the end of January in which the group headed out on an assignment one morning and totally botched the address.
They pulled up in their vehicles, descended on the house and explained to the disoriented, elderly couple living there that they were the group from the church and were there to assess and fix things.

It wasn't until after they had finished with the house that they discovered they were at the wrong address. That was also when the tearful couple told them that the night before they had shown up they had made a suicide pact. Here it was almost a half a year after Katrina, they were still living in a mold infested house with a leaky roof. They had exhausted (or thought they had) every avenue for assistance and apparently had lost all hope.

They went to bed deciding to end it all and the very next morning an entire group of people with all the tools and supplies needed to fix their house "just showed up" and asking for nothing in returned helped them out of a very deep and dark hole.

I personally had several encounters where we would seem to "just happen" to find ourselves in the exact right place at the exact right time with exactly the right tools to help people who needed it. Several times we would go to work a site that wasn't as bad as we had thought it would be but we would find a neighbor in desperate need.

We even stopped at the wrong house one time and were met by a frazzled 80+ year old widow who had been promised a trailer by FEMA but SHE had to clear a spot for it in her yard and had to have it done by the end of that day. Even if she had owned a chainsaw she couldn't have lifted it ... but all of a sudden, there we were.

It is rather staggering to find out after having helped someone that, finding themselves with no where else to turn they had actually prayed for help and then you just showed up.

Share that thought with people.

If they go down there they
will undoubtedly be used as the answer to someone's prayer.

"How" may not be revealed to them as dramatically as with these stories but they WILL be used.

There are so many tragic things going on in this world right now that we as individuals can't realistically do anything about. This though
is that opportunity.


An email from a stranger (Part 1)

Every now and then an email makes you stand up and take notice. It happend twice tonight from "Gary" a total stranger. and the emails come at a perfect time, just as we are preparing to go back with 287 people to help across the Gulf coast.

The first email (only slightly edited)


I came across your page detailing your relief work on the coast and I wanted to say thanks.

I went on 2 such trips in the weeks directly following Katrina's landfall. We were working from Gulfport to Bay St. Louis. The destruction was haunting but more haunting were the people we encountered. Days before, many of them "had it all." Then they woke up and had nothing.

Almost all of them just needed to talk with someone who could at least act like they cared if they lived or died.

I was prepared for hard work and physical discomfort. I wasn't prepared for the "spiritual" heavy lifting which was perhaps the most important thing any of us could do there at that time. In many places along the coast that is still probably the most important thing that needs doing.

Simple acts of human kindness.

I try to impress that on people who have expressed an interest in helping but don't think they can climb on a roof or carry moldy sheet rock. I point out that these houses have owners and that sitting down with them and listening to them talk or vent or cry could easily be the most important thing anyone on that team could do.

Your pictures bring it back. I see them and I can still smell the mold. I can still smell the horror of a "dead" refrigerator. I can still feel the anguish of those we tried to help. I can still see them crying.

My thoughts go with all of you who are still helping and will be needed to help for years to come.