Helping Hands Group Needs Support

A new community service group is lending a hand to people in need.

It's called the "Mississippi Gulf Coast Helping Hands Association". The program was organized to help low income residents who need help with home renovations, but may not qualify for existing programs.

The group has already identified its first project in North Gulfport.

"Thank the Lord the police got here and they got him. And the firemen got here when they did," said Aries Downing, as she relived the nightmare from a year ago.

On June 16, 2003, an arsonist torched Downing's home on Texas Avenue. Since then, she's been living with a daughter and trying desperately to get her badly damaged house repaired.

"We're going to take all this off. We're going to pull all this off and put new siding," said Rev. Nathaniel Jeanpierre, who helped organize the helping hands group in response to Mrs. Downing's personal crisis.

The major renovation will be the group's first assignment.

"Our greatest need right now is getting materials in. Building materials. And finance too, money," said Rev. Jeanpierre.

"Helping Hands" is also recruiting volunteers for the labor. A contractor, electrician and plumber have already signed up. Organizers are counting on this new group to meet a growing need of folks who need housing help, but may not qualify for other programs.

Ella Holmes-Hines is the Gulfport city council member representing ward three.

"What we have is a big vacuum of citizens who've been in their homes for years and still need help. So, this organization it's well worth your support and your energy and your time," explained Holmes-Hines.

The home owner is anxious and excited about the project possibilities.

"It's very important because I didn't know where to go or what to do. I had went to everybody that I know. And then I wrote letters," said Downing.

The result is some "helping hands" that promise to clear the debris and help a woman who's dilapidated home definitely needs some attention.