They could have stayed in North Carolina and spent the fourth of July with their families. But for 32 members of Wilson's Mills Baptist Church, putting Lucille Moore back in her home seemed like a better way to spend the Independence Day holiday.
Rebecca Capps was part of the church's ceramic tile team. "It's a great opportunity to reach out and help people," the 19-year-old said.
Capps and her church youth group arrived in Gulfport on Sunday night. First thing Monday morning, the baptist students were fixing up Ms. Moore's home.
"It's a wonderful way to help people and it's an amazing feeling to get the satisfaction of knowing that you did something good for someone else," Capps said.
In this case, that someone else was a woman affectionately known as Miss Lucille. She's one of the Forest Heights neighbors forced into a FEMA trailer after water and wind washed away almost everything she owned.
While Miss Lucille was standing in a hallway with one of the volunteers, she tried to explain what her house looked like right after the hurricane hit. It wasn't a pretty sight. In fact, her daughter tried to keep Miss Lucille away from the mess.
"I said, 'You've got to get out of the way. I've gotta see what happened to my house,'" Moore told her new friend. Three feet of water soaked everything inside.
For 10 months, volunteers have piece-mealed her home back together.
"It's just a blessing to have all this help coming down to help us," the Gulfport woman said. "We truly couldn't do it by ourselves because we just don't have enough money to do it by ourselves."
Some of Miss Lucille's helpers signed a broken piece of drywall that sat in the corner of her living room. She read a few of the inscriptions. One said God bless you Miss Lucille. Another said be strong in the name of the Lord.
"Everyone that I've got to know, I fell in love with all of them," Moore said. "It's truly a blessing that they feel this way toward me."
It's that spirit that drives this latest group of North Carolina volunteers. They know that on the eve of America's birthday, their hard work is providing freedom for some north Gulfport hurricane victims.
"It's a terrible thing that happened up here," noted Capps, moments after she moved newly painted floor boards into a hallway. "It's a terrible situation to be living in. But they pulled together so wonderfully as neighbors and other people as well. It's a wonderful, wonderful thing to do."
The group in Forest Heights coordinated its visit with the North Carolina Baptist Men organization. While they're in town, they're staying at Gulfport's National Guard armory. That facility has become the headquarters for the North Carolina volunteers.