Nazarene Volunteers Deliver Surprise To Gulfport Homeowner

"It brought back a lot of memories, when you think you raise all your children here and the neighborhood children," said Helena Melear.

Helena Melear misses the sound of children's laughter, as they played in her yard. But these days, she's just as happy hearing sounds of hammers, saws and drills.

Thirteen volunteers from Bucyrus Nazarene Church in Ohio, are repairing Melear's storm-damaged house on Rich Avenue in Gulfport.

"I love the steps," Melear commented as she toured the house.

The volunteers are used to building churches and seminaries, not houses. And this was their first mission trip to South Mississippi.

"Oh it's been a real blessing," said volunteer Dr. Ron Palenshus. "It's something we feel we get more from God than we give. Totally, wonderful experience."

"People are so good. That's why it's very emotional," Melear said with tears in her eyes.

The Nazarene volunteers are giving Melear more than just a house. When they heard that her grandchildren lost their playground equipment in Katrina, they surprised her with a special delivery.

"We really felt like you needed a play area for your grand kids, so we have a tower and a slide and some swings, and we're going to put that up for your kids," said volunteer Bev Burgin.

"Thank you so much," said Melear. "All I can say is God is good."

"We fell in love with her. She's just really nice person," Palenshus said. "Having that kind of reaction is just the wonderful part of it."

The volunteers were recruited by the Salvation Army. As more volunteer organizations start scaling down their operations, the Salvation Army wants to keep the recovery momentum going.

"The Salvation Army is trying to get more interactive with the community, because we have the facilities to house, we have the finances to pay, and we feel strongly that we can generate the volunteer base we need to continue it," said Edwin Britt, Program Director for the Salvation Army Volunteer Village.

Britt describes the program as a success so far.

"People come down to build houses, or to rehab houses," Britt said. "But in the end, they find that it's not so much getting the house done. It's becoming a family."

Over the next few weeks, ten more Nazarene volunteers will be arriving in South Mississippi to continue the rebuilding mission. The group will be here until March 21st.