The Fuller Center Disaster Rebuilders are back. On Sunday night, volunteers returned to the Coast to celebrate old friendships, and continue what they started.
The VFW Post in Biloxi was filled with more than 100 volunteers who were reunited, some for the first time, since they worked to help rebuild the coast in the months after the storm.
Special guests included former Mayor A.J. Holloway and current Mayor FoFo Gilich.
“So many volunteers had wonderful members of working in Biloxi and in Bay St. Louis and on the Gulf Coast,” said Pete Berlowitz, a member of the board for Fuller Center Disaster Rebuilders. “And it was just a natural that we use this event to bring the volunteers back.”
The agency began under the auspices of Habitat for Humanity of northern Virginia, and reorganized as the Fuller Center Disaster Rebuilders in 2008.
Since the storm, the Christian organization has built or renovated about 100 houses on the coast.
“The emotional impact was overwhelming and it was that way for us too in so many ways,” said Bart Tucker, president of the organization. “But we quickly came to the conclusion that what we needed to do was to help restore these families to their homes."
And so, the building began quickly. In December 2005, the first family moved into their new home.
How else do volunteers with the Fuller Center Disaster Rebuilders celebrate a Katrina reunion? They build more houses, like the one on Bellman Street in Biloxi. It is a kickoff to a week of work where the home will be completed by Saturday with a dedication at 11 a.m.
Also during the week, there will be another house rebuilt and three others renovated.
Volunteers like Peter Salemme have been back several times to check on residents he helped, like a Vietnamese family.
“Not a word of English, but the heart is there,” he said. “Every time I’d knock on the door, she’d say, ‘Peter! Peter! We have shrimp! I have shrimp!’ Just like that you get a heartistic connection with the people whose homes you’re rebuilding.”