Fifty tourism leaders converged on the grounds of Beauvoir Monday morning, tossing out Katrina's trash and salvaging some treasures. Susan Thomas from Hilton Head Island found pieces of glass.
"They look like older pieces of glass that must have been from maybe the house that blew all the way back here," Thomas said.
The volunteers are members of the Southeast Tourism Society. The group was supposed to meet in North Carolina this year, but decided to shift to South Mississippi.
"We had been advising other groups to come down here and hold their meetings in this area, to be a part of the recovery process," said Bill Hardman, Southeast Tourism Society CEO and President. "We decided we needed to take our own advice."
The volunteers are lending a hand, cleaning and packing the priceless collection of historic documents, books and artifacts in the destroyed Jeff Davis Presidential Library. The building will be stripped down the beams, and rebuilt.
"It was so heartbreaking to know that so much of the culture and history is gone from this area," said Jeannea Spence, Budget Travel Magazine Executive. "So to have any part, as tourism people, in rebuilding that history and emphasizing what culture that is still here, and be able to tell that story to the rest of the world is a great opportunity."
"As we were unloading the books, I thought, 'Okay, when are we going to come back again?'" said Lee Curtis with the Tennessee Tourism Department. "I feel like I work here. I feel like a part of Mississippi."
The group is also working behind the scenes to help in the area's recovery. In April, the society will launch a $1.2 million image campaign to change people's perceptions about the Gulf Coast, and encourage them to visit South Mississippi.
"This is a very important part of the tourism product of the Gulf Coast," Hardman said. "We're just happy to be a very, very small part down here while we're here."
The Southeast Tourism Society will be in South Mississippi through Wednesday. This is their first visit to the area since Katrina.