Hundreds gathered at the Biloxi Town Green on Friday for the first ever Volunteerfest. It was organized by a Biloxi born support group. New Life Disaster Relief, headquartered in Biloxi Christian Church, has made a national impression.
This was Ken Wetzel's event, but it became, as one might expect, volunteers helping volunteers to put on Volunteerfest.
It's hard to separate the volunteers from those who have benefited from volunteer work. In fact, most here are both.
"We've had people come from all over the country to join us in this, and that is probably the greatest show of gratitude that we can receive," Wetzel said. "They've continued coming for 10 years now, and we're just so tremendously blessed and that's enough gratitude for me."
Wetzel and his wife, Dawn, grew their ministry out of their own experience with Katrina and have expanded their disaster relief work beyond South Mississippi.
Michael Bruno, of Long Island, NY, was a victim of Hurricane Sandy, where Wetzel volunteered his time. Now, Bruno is back on the Coast to give back.
Volunteers, he said, are special people.
"They give it with their heart," Wetzel said. "Don't expect no payback. Don't expect nothing at all. We do it, myself, and I imagine every volunteer that works with any organization. And, may I say, especially for New Life Disaster."
The festival had plenty of barbecue chicken and trimmings to feed a hungry army of helpers. Live Christian pop music filled the downtown area.
Joilynn Mechanic and her husband were helped by volunteers from New Life Disaster Relief, and now she's passing it on.
"I think that everybody that has had a volunteer should tell the volunteer sincerely, 'Thank you,'" Mechanic said. "And really mean it. Not just thank you, but really mean thank you, from the bottom of their heart, and for them to give back as much as they can."