Volunteers Putting Back Together Churches, Homes - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

12/14/05

Volunteers Putting Back Together Churches, Homes

For the next year, a Portland, Oregon church has committed to rebuild homes and churches in the Biloxi/Gulfport area. Beaverton Four Square Church formed a non-profit organization called BFS Relief. It is made up of volunteers from around the country who want to lend a hand to people who need it most.

The Church of the Living God in Gulfport is full of soggy insulation, soaked flooring and broken pews. Volunteers have a big job gutting the church so its congregation can once again come together.

"Water went to about eight feet and that sat there for a few hours. Now everything in the church is contaminated by mold. The water's just ruined the materials," says Lee Smith.

Smith says there is so much rebuilding and recovery facing the coast, he quickly found out his stay here wouldn't be short.

"I came down here for a little bit, you know, just temporarily. But I was so drawn by how much devastation and the needs that need to be met that I came down here for a year and just quit my job."

Brett Rousseau and Michelle Whitaker are high school sophomores. At night they hit the books to catch up on their studies. During the day they learn a different lesson, one of humanity and compassion.

"I can't imagine if this would happen in our area what I would do, cause it's like losing your whole life. Not just your house, but your school and your church and your neighbors' houses. I really wanted to come and hopefully help however way I can," says Whitaker.

The volunteers say they had no idea what kind of devastation they would face when they arrived. They say media reports couldn't even begin to paint a picture of what Hurricane Katrina did to the coast.

Brett Rousseau says, "I knew it was going to be bad cause I'd seen news and read articles about it, but once you get down here, like, it's unimaginable."

The teens say working in what they describe as a "disaster area" gives them a better appreciation of what helping others is all about.

byMarcia Hill

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