Long Beach Volunteer Camp Grows To Keep Up With Demand

Nancy Harpers camping vacation is now in its 3rd month.

"My grandchildren are waiting with baited breath," says Harper, surveying a new group of volunteers.

During her extended stay, the Devon Pennsylvania resident has become something of a den mother to the steady stream of visitors camping out at Camp Hope in Long Beach.

"My job on a daily basis is when all of a sudden I have 100 people coming in," says Harper. "I have to decide who goes in tents and bunks and where this group should be."

Operated by the First Presbyterian Church of Gulfport, Camp Hope sprang literally from this field of green in the weeks following Hurricane Katrina.

"It became obvious that we needed something besides a tent and a water hose to keep these people here," says church member David Andre.

It has since evolved into a bustling complex of buildings, campers, and tents, designed to make comfortable the more than 2000 volunteers who've traveled here to help.

"We provide them with food and lodging of a sort," says Andre. "And we're gradually making permanent structures in this wonderful grassy field that the church owned prior to Katrina."

Allison Good of Boca Raton Florida is struck by the improvements made since her first visit here last October.

"There was tents and that was about it," says Good. "We were told there would be RVs and a bathroom and nothing was up yet."

This visit, she's here to bring a bit of cheer to the current campers and everyone else, with a Spring Festival.

"They need a break, some encouragement, and just to have some fun, because it's been stressful," says Good.

It's just another way they say, to share a mission and a message of hope, found right in their name.

"They leave changed," says Harper. "They say to us always, this has changed my whole life."