Construction Workers Using Skills To Help Coast

A faith-based charity is helping rebuild South Mississippi by recruiting construction workers from across the country. Volunteers with Christian Aid Ministries are repairing and building homes on the coast. So far the group has taken on more than 200 projects in this area.

Mark Slabagh says he's been around construction all his life.

"I grew up with a hammer and nails," said Slabagh. "When I was a little boy, my father was a carpenter, so we tagged along with him and just started learning a trade."

Christian Aid Ministries recruits the country's carpenters, sheet rock workers, and others familiar with construction to help improve the lives of disaster victims. The charity came to Mississippi a month after Katrina.

"Our supporter base is primarily Mennonite and Amish people," said coordinator Lamar High. "There are a lot of skilled construction people in those communities. We field people in those communities, and they come out. We coordinate their skills to assist in helping people. It helps very much to just speed up the process versus having people here that are not skilled and we need to shepard them along and help them with the project."

Each week about 28 skilled laborers arrive in South Mississippi to help Christian Aid Ministries repair and build homes in South Mississippi. The charity provides the free labor. The homeowner supplies the materials. The owner of house on Hester Street in Pascagoula said the volunteers are a blessing.

"They have skills," said Joe Haydock. "They're working on the house. They're putting the siding on and their doing it like they're doing it on their own house. If you have a problem with something, they listen to you. They do what you want to be done, not what they think needs to be done. It's really wonderful."

Mark Slabagh used his vacation time to come down from Virginia. He say it feels good to use what he knows to help people in need.

"I'm carrying out a mission I think God has given us, and that is to help others as we go through life," he said.

Christian Aid Ministries says homeowners are selected based on need. For more information, call 228-474-1100.