Stone County Thanks Hurricane Helpers

Stone County is hosting an "appreciation celebration" Monday evening

Community leaders planned the event as a way of thanking the thousands of volunteers who helped with hurricane recovery.

Volunteers from dozens of states brought hurricane help to Stone County. They cut down trees, raked yards and provided critical support to area firefighters after the storm. Stone County wants to show its appreciation.

Organizers hung a colorful banner in Blaylock Park. The sign and the event acknowledge the "hurricane helpers" who gave of themselves to help a storm weary Stone County.

"Show our thanks to all the people in Wiggins and Stone County and across the nation. We've had people here from Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, New York. Forty three states have been here in Wiggins, Mississippi helping us with our recovery," said Wiggins mayor, Jerry Alexander.

Bluegrass Park hosted hundreds of forestry workers and firefighters.

"It's been running about a 100 man camp. It started at the end of September, first of October," said Jack McCarty from Tennessee.

The volunteers are breaking camp now, preparing to head home after many weeks of helping clear roads and fight wild fires.

"We worked hard to try and prevent any catastrophic fires and to help out any way we could. I know they're all glad to be heading back home and hopefully the folks will be able to handle it here now," McCarty explained.

Although much of the Katrina attention has been on the immediate coast, Stone County sustained some significant damage from the storm. More than 10 weeks after the hurricane, signs of Katrina's visit are still quite evident in downtown Wiggins.

"Trees. Roofs gone. My house has a huge blue roof on it, for which I am very grateful. What the wind didn't blow away, the water came in and severely damaged as well. Lots of people in the area suffered a great deal of loss," said longtime resident, Nina Shaw.

Lots of people also answered the call to help, something for which the community is grateful.

"It has just been wonderful. Gives you the feeling that you might see it get back to where it was again," said Shaw.