Pearlington Slowly Recovering

Small armies of volunteers continue to help Pearlington recover from Katrina. Although some sections of town look like the storm hit last week, there are increasing pockets of progress throughout the Hancock County community.

United Methodist volunteers from Ohio spent the morning Monday building bunk beds for the next wave of workers. The base camp at Charles Murphy Elementary School serves as headquarters for visiting volunteers.

"Well, there's certainly a great need here. And this is an opportunity for us to give back some things in service," said Doug Elzerman from Medina, Ohio.

His church group includes a mixture of adults and teenagers. Andrew Lohner, 14,  is among those on the mission trip.

"It's pretty meaningful just to be down here and help everyone that needs help," he said.

A lunch hour visit to First Missionary Baptist gives some clue about the numbers of volunteers helping Pearlington rebuild.

Donald Ray credits the visiting workers for helping his hometown recover. Although Katrina drove some residents away, many others are staying put.

"Far more people have said, 'We're going to stick here. This is our town. This is where we grew up.' There are just generations of families here in Pearlington who will not leave. The storm is not going to scare them off," said Ray.

"Out of 750 houses, there's only a few that's left," said C.A. Russ, whose home is among those still standing.

It's the only one along the river front that survived.

"We had about six foot of mud, grass and all kind of stuff in here," Russ explained, as he showed visitors his home under repair.

As volunteers rebuild the home, its owner credits solid wood construction for helping withstand the storm.

"I had a saw mill. My daddy had it. He built it in '37, and I ran it from '62 into the '70's. And I cut all this lumber and had this cypress milled in Gulfport. Brought it back and put it up," he said.

The home is another bright spot in a small town that's on the rebound.

"I think Pearlington will be back stronger than ever. The people have a new attitude that hopefully will stick with them," said Donald Ray.