Six months after the storm, Pearlington, Mississippi is a town of both ruin and hope. Parts of the community look untouched since the hurricane. But there are also signs of restoration amid the debris piles.
Pearlington is something like a person with split personality. On one side of the main highway we found fallen trees and collapsed houses. But across the street, the sound of hammer on wood represents recovery in progress.
"I was here during the storm, I saw what happened. I had 23 foot of water," said Herb Ritchie, as he gave a tour of the distribution center at Charles Murphy Elementary.
"They need it, we try to get it," said the volunteer organizer.
Up to a hundred people a day still depend on donations.
"I don't see anything in the near future being built. So, as long as we can keep it up and going, we'll keep it up and going," said Ritchie.
"She'll tell you, we climbed trees to get here," said George Pullman.
He and his wife Joyce have a FEMA trailer now. It sits on the slab where their home used to be; a house the couple bought from Joyce's parents.
"When they lost, they lost everything. It's really been a hard load. We're coming in here with a trailer, we ain't going to build," Pullman says.
Scars on a nearby pine tree represent the high water mark.
"The stuff was hitting it. Like the swells, knocked all that bark off," said Pullman, pointing to a mark some ten feet up the pine tree.
College students from South Carolina are helping clean what was the rectory at St. Joseph Catholic Church. The spring breakers could be catching rays in Cozumel, but chose instead to swat gnats near the Pearl River.
Todd Czaplicki is a part of the student group.
"It makes more of a difference. There's more meaning to it when you help out someone else, than just going somewhere and partying and having a good time," he said.
Work teams from Virginia are busy building temporary shelters. The group "Building Goodness" normally works in places like Hati and Guatamala. The post-Katrina conditions in Pearlington are similar.
"I'm just blown away by how much was destroyed. And how little there really is in terms of who's going to do what to help people get back on their feet," said Jack Stoner.