After more than a year on the coast, a volunteer group is calling it quits. The group known as Persevere is packing up and heading home.
Bill Driscoll Jr. came to the Gulf Coast to volunteer with the group Hands On. But when that assignment ended, Driscoll realized his willingness to help South Mississippians had just begun.
"At the time, it was February 2006, the progress was really slow. It was the hardest hit area following Katrina. We wanted to send a message with our name and let people know that we were here to help them get over this obstacle and really persevere through these tough times," says Driscoll.
The group focused on the removal of dead trees, something Driscoll says was a threat to thousands of homeowners.
"We were concerned with people that were going to build in spaces that were surrounded by dead standing trees or living in a FEMA trailer swayed in the way every time the wind blew. And we worked to address that as best as we could. We worked to take down over 1200 trees in this past year and we replanted 1300 in their place," Driscoll said.
Volunteers at Persevere also teamed up with other organizations like Kaboom to rebuild playgrounds. They also helped dozens of homeowners. But now after extending their stay much longer than they originally planned, leaders say it's time to say good-bye.
"It's hard because there is still so much to be done. The Gulf Coast has not rebuilt. But I think that we did as much as we could," says Beca Howard, Operations Manager with Persevere.
The group relied on donations to support the program and they received more than just money and supplies. One business owner loaned them a truck to haul equipment. Another company built a temporary structure to run the business.
"It's really taught me that people can help and they will help you if they can and they will help you in anyway that they can," says Driscoll.
It's that kind of generosity that Driscoll says will make them never forget the Gulf Coast.
Bill Driscoll says most of the volunteers have already returned home. The group plans to close the building for good by the end of the month.