Biloxi charity vows to rebuild after fire destroys center

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – Investigators say the fire that gutted St. Vincent de Paul Society's distribution center over the weekend was accidental. They say it was possibly electrical, but can't pinpoint where it started or an exact cause because of the extent of the damage.

Meanwhile, leaders of the organization say they are determined to rebuild. They came Monday morning to comfort each other and to see for themselves what Saturday's fire did to their distribution center.

"Really in shock most of the weekend," said Dolores Crouse, a volunteer with the St. Vincent de Paul Society at Fatima.  "Coming back here today, looking at it is very sad, very sad."

The metal storage building has melted to a blackened shell. And thousands of donated clothing and household goods are now part of a pile of burnt, useless rubble.

Fire investigators spent Monday morning sifting through the debris. They said the fire was accidental, possibly electrical in nature.  However, they couldn't point to an exact cause because of the extent of the damage.

Yet in the midst of the destruction, the president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society at Fatima Catholic Church found a symbol of hope.

"I think the clothing racks kind of really tell it all.  Destruction, but they're still standing on those racks. The racks are still standing. So we'll do good," said Susan Taylor.

With winter months ahead and new donations coming in, members immediately went searching for a temporary location. They received permission from the pastor to use another metal building on the church property until the end of November.

"We're making use of the existing parish building that we can kind of keep some of our donated goods in and still take care of the needs of the clients there. We'll just go to plan B, C and D," said Taylor.

When asked if the organization plans to rebuild, Taylor responded, "Absolutely. Absolutely."

With the community's generosity and dedicated volunteers, the Biloxi charity expects to recover and continue its mission to help the homeless.

"God provides and we're going to be the vehicle that He provides that through," said Taylor.

"I'm sure we'll move on from here and start distributing as fast as we can, wherever we have to go to do that," said Crouse.

The organization needs donations to replace what it lost, especially men's clothing. Those items include jeans, shoes, socks and shirts. You can drop off donations at the organization's main office on the Fatima church property on Pass Road in Biloxi.

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