HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) – Sue Cromer has been to South Mississippi four times since Katrina, and she's not alone. She one of more than a dozen volunteers from the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago who have given their time and talents to help the Gulf Coast recover.
"We started off with 23 people the first year and it's kind of grown from there, and we have 83 people with us this trip," Cromer said.
She remembers those first days after the storm, and how the needs changed.
"So many people had lost absolutely everything and there was so much to be done and so much need. So we came down and we got so attached to the people down here," Cromer said.
Another volunteer in her group echoed her words.
"Everyone is so grateful for what we do, and every ounce of effort that we give is so important to them that it makes me want to keep coming back again and again," said George Lee, a volunteer from California.
Diamondhead resident James Seglund is grateful and amazed at what thousands of volunteers have done here. The 87-year old was fortunate not to need help from the army of volunteers who arrived as soon as Katrina's winds cleared.
"I think the very next day, church groups appeared. They were the first ones on the scene. Of course, they've contributed ever since and up to today," Seglund said.
To honor the generosity and kindness that came from around the globe, Seglund is leading a fund-raising effort to build a monument to the Katrina volunteers.
"Those volunteers were a historical event. The heart of the event spread all over the country and touched everyone and brought the volunteers, helped us get on our feet."
The volunteer memorial fountain will be located on the grounds of the Hancock County I-10 Welcome Center.
"The pinnacle in the middle of the fountain is 30 feet high and we know what the 30 feet represents the height that the waters reached," Seglund explained, describing the monument's design. "You notice a little sway in that Egyptian pinnacle. That's to represent the force of the wind."
The black marble monument will cost about $1.5 million. So far, Seglund's fund-raising committee has raised about $5,000 for the project. He's confident the fountain will become a reality with the help of businesses, both large and small.
"They were able to start up sooner because of volunteers bringing their citizens back. The businesses profited greatly because of those volunteers. I expect business to step up and recognize how important they were and they should never be forgotten. Recovery would not have happened as fast as it did without those volunteers."
And the volunteers are still coming. The Episcopal Diocese has committed to sending volunteers down to help rebuild homes for up to ten years if needed.
If you'd like to make a donation to the Volunteer Memorial Fountain, contact James Seglund at (228) 255-3451. Or you can mail a donation to:
Katrina Memorial Fountain
6460 Apelehama Road
Diamondhead, MS 39525