It's probably safe to say before Katrina, few people in Waveland had ever heard of Wayland, Massachusetts. And Wayland folks probably didn't know much about Waveland. But almost two and a half years later, the two towns have forged a strong bond.
Wednesday, eight families moved into new homes because of the Wayland to Waveland connection.
"Like many Americans, the people of Wayland, Massachusetts were moved by the images of devastation and heartache caused by this nation's worst natural disaster," Wayland resident Tom Fay said.
The people of Wayland, Massachusetts have been helping the people of Waveland recover from Katrina since the beginning.
"Two years after the storm over 16,000 people were still living in trailers, so eight builders responded with a mission to Mississippi. Eight builders, 404 skilled workers and sub-contractors, 125 volunteers and 1,252 contributors," Wayland resident Kathie Steinberg said.
It also took more than $1.6 million in donations.
"This relationship among two American communities, 1500 miles apart, has been life changing for all involved," Fay said.
Nowhere is that more true than in the new houses eight Waveland families now call home. All were built by the people of Wayland.
"This is a house, you'll make it a home. It can't change the shattered lives, it can't bring back lost loved ones, but it's a fresh start," Wayland contractor Tom Mitchell said.
Waveland homeowner Kenneth Cunningham said, "This is pretty overwhelming. I'm speechless right now."
"The Wayland organization, they are all wonderful people with big hearts," Waveland homeowners Courtney and Eddie Peterson said.
"Our wish to you is that you've learned that strangers from a far away place, 1500 miles away, have become family. And you reach out to other people you don't know throughout your life, and learn to love and take care of them just like we've all become family with you," Wayland resident Cindy Lombardo said.
The homes were turned over to their new owners fully furnished, thanks to donations from a Wayland furniture store. Other good deeds from the Northeast community included purchasing Christmas toys for Waveland children, delivering goods to make FEMA trailer living a little more comfortable, restoring Waveland's ball fields and building a memorial park.