Volunteers Building Bonds At Long Beach Facility

Instead of using hammers to help rebuild lives, some AmeriCorps volunteers are using paint brushes. The volunteers are spending nine weeks, assisting teachers and doing leisure activities with clients at the South Mississippi Regional Center. Their clients all have mental disabilities.

"Coming here, I was nervous," said volunteer Jacob Smock. "It's a completely different thing I've ever done in my life."

Jacob Smock left two jobs and his apartment in Toledo, Ohio. He came to help out the Long Beach facility, because it has lost 40 percent of its staff since Katrina.

"The people here, they get their every day necessities taken care of, like being fed and bathed," Smock said. "But they don't have that much interaction. For the most part, they're sitting around watching TV. So our job was to come in here and kind of give them that extra outlet. Be friends with them."

"By having us come here, it really takes the pressure off the staff," said Natalie Wasserman.

Wasserman just graduated from college in California. The job has taught her more than she can ever imagine.

"It's definitely touched me," said Wasserman. "It has opened my eyes to people that I thought had a hard life. I came in thinking life was hard for them. But it's not. They enjoy every minute of it."

They're bringing smiles and building bonds. It's another way of helping South Mississippi recover.

"The people I've worked with have put up with being so-called different," Smock said. "And I know if they can do it for their entire lives, and still be so happy, the Gulf Coast can recover from a disaster. This is probably the best project I've done."

The volunteers are part of the National Civilian Community Corps, which is a branch of AmeriCorps. This is the group's second time working at the South Mississippi Regional Center.