Salvation Army Has A Solution For Volunteers' West Nile Fears

Fears expressed by volunteer groups concerning potential health risks at rebuilding sites have been eased just a bit. Several recovery teams contacted the Salvation Army recently and asked what was being done to protect their volunteers from the West Nile virus. On Thursday, a solution arrived that could save lives and reinforce south Mississippi's recovery efforts.

That was welcome news in Pascagoula.  While 100 Homes in 100 Days volunteers hammered away at boards, pesky mosquitos hammered away at them. Keith Canfield is the founder of Hope Has A Face. His group has coordinated the 100 homes project.

"We've had two volunteer groups specifically this week ask us is West Nile an issue," Canfield said. "They wanted to know what do we need to do differently to have repellant, those kinds of things."

The Salvation Army thinks its found a way to saw through that problem, before West Nile virus concerns takes a bite out of hurricane recovery efforts. Will Cundiff is the new head of Salvation Army's regional headquarters at Biloxi's Yankie Stadium. He knows how valuable volunteers are. So he's always looking for ways to make them feel as welcome as possible.

"Exactly. If we were to lose our volunteer base for the area, we would be in a world of trouble with the rebuilding of this coast," Major Cundiff said.

The Salvation Army answer to combat West Nile is in plastic canisters. From this point forward, Salvation Army staff members will pass out environmentally safe mosquito, snake and rat repellant to any volunteer group or city that needs it.

"With the recent publicity we've had for the West Nile," Cundiff said, "we felt it was the right thing to be able to give people peace of mind and let them know somebody in the community or the entire community was caring and willing to do something about that."

Because without the repellant, South Mississippi could lose the swarm of volunteers who continue to rebuild hurricane damaged properties. And that would slow down the final days of the 100 homes in 100 days project.

"So having a product like this that we can apply around housing areas and around work sites that gives the volunteers another level of protection and safety, it's absolutely critical," said Canfield.

The environmentally safe mosquito repellant is available at the Salvation Army's headquarters in Biloxi. Non-profit volunteer groups, schools, and cities around the six coastal counties are all eligible to receive the free canisters.