Bay Volunteers Go Shopping For Free Tools

They looked like kids in a toy store.

"Drill indexes. Oh yeah. That's it," one man exclaimed.

"This one? Yeah!" said a woman as she held up a leaf blower.

The adults had $4,000 spend on anything they needed at Lowe's in Waveland. But the gifts won't go under any Christmas tree. They'll go right into the hands of teen volunteers, who are based at the Mission on the Bay camp in Bay St. Louis.

"Every man's dream is to go to the tool section and spend $4,000," said Benjamin Hill.

He pointed to an air compressor and said, "If my wife is watching, I want one of those."

Hill is a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida. When the Diocese heard that Mission on the Bay needed tools to rebuild homes, church members eagerly donated money.

"This is money that has been donated, not by wealthy people in our diocese, but a lot of people are very committed," Hill said. "Sometimes they can't be over here in person, and they were happy to send some money. To me it's more of a blessing, because this mission can continue."

"We've been doing this since the hurricane, and not everyday somebody shows up and says 'Hey, let's go to Lowe's and spend $4,000,'" said Mission on the Bay Director Butch Jones. "It's great. It's like waking up on Christmas morning."

"We're just thrilled, " Hill said. "We're waiting for the grand total right now. We feel like Santa Claus."

"It's $3,993.10," announced the store manager.

"I'm excited. I just don't know why he couldn't have timed it closer to $4,000," Hill joked.

"We wouldn't be where we are today, without the kindness of complete strangers," Jones said. "It's really humbling. We can't be more appreciative of it. We're true to our hearts when we tell them 'thank you'."

The Episcopal Diocese of Florida is on its 27th mission trip to the Gulf Coast. Besides donating tools, the volunteers have also spent about $4,500 on materials this week to rebuild a house in Long Beach. Since Katrina, the diocese has donated more than $52,000 to South Mississippi's recovery effort.