HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) - The storm cleanup in the Pine Belt is largely dependent on volunteers. They began arriving in the Hattiesburg area shortly after the winds died down.
Many who donated their time are challenging others to step forward.
"I am a student at the University of Southern Mississippi, and I'm out here helping our beautiful community members clean up after the disaster," said Angelena Meeks, as she introduced herself to a visitor at the work site on Elizabeth St. in Hattiesburg.
When she's not attending class at USM, you'll likely find Meeks among the storm cleanup volunteers.
"Some people didn't have the insurance they needed, and so they have to stay in these homes regardless of the situation. You know, it's very heart breaking to see that, but the little bit we can do, it all makes a difference in the end," Meeks said.
Hattiesburg resident Michael Dent said it could have just as easily been his storm-damaged home being visited by volunteers.
Instead, he counts himself among the lucky ones.
"It missed my house and my granny's house by two and a half blocks before you could see any devastation. So, just blessed to be here. Happy to help out when needed," said Dent.
"We're moving down one this way," shouted the team leader as the crew prepared to move on to its next assignment.
Although the hundreds of volunteers come from throughout the region, and even across the country, many helping out were born and raised in Hattiesburg. That includes Lisa Cameron, who now lives in Atlanta, GA.
"This is home. This is my community. These are my friends. My church home is affected now. Friends' homes are affected, so I'm here to help," said Cameron.
Given the extent of damages across the Pine Belt, the cleanup task is enormous. That's why many volunteers are urging everyone to sign up and volunteer. Even if you can donate just an hour or two a week.
"Every little bit counts, no matter what you do. Whether you're cleaning out a yard, whether you're sweeping a street, picking up a limb. It doesn't matter. Any little bit helps. An encouraging word, it all goes a long way," said volunteer Marcus Blake.
"It's just good to be home, and good to be able to help," said Cameron.