Team Effort To Rebuild Leaves Coast Woman Rejoicing

It took her two and a half long years of what she calls rejection and disappointments, but now one Gulfport woman can rejoice in her new home.

Several organizations teamed up to build more than 15 homes in less than a month.

Annie James is among the first of those residents to open the door to her new home.

The Gulfport native left the coast for almost 40 years, but moved back just three days before Hurricane Katrina. She says just as she was settling in, she had to leave.

"I was in an evacuation zone. We had to go past north of Interstate 10 and we flighted to Hattiesburg, Mississippi," James said.

The rest of her story is similar to that of many coast residents, but now she has a happy ending.

"I look at it now and the planting of the flower when you see it bloom and blossom. That's when you look back and see the glory of it," said James.

Monday, leaders presented Ms. James with her official certificate of occupancy for her brand new home. The home has new furniture from wall to wall.

"Being able to wake up and lay in that big bed. I just can't even put it into words," James said.

Lori West is with International Relief and Development, the organization responsible for getting non-profits to team up and build homes along the coast. She says the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, The Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Lutheran Social Service Disaster Response and Mississippi Presbytery all teamed up to rebuild dozens of South Mississippi homes.

"Not one group can do everything. The Salvation Army has come through in funding things that other organizations would not fund. Mississippi Presbytery, they have one of the best construction crews down here. So we aren't able to do all of it well, and with our joint forces we are able to get this done much quicker," West said.

IRD worker Stephanie Mathes agrees.

"To watch her get into her home has been so emotional for all of us, because it is really a true indication that we are doing good and we are moving forward on the coast," Mathes said.

IRD leaders say the organization just received $1 million in funding. The group plans to team up with local non-profit organizations again to build 25 more homes in Harrison and Hancock Counties.