Pass Christian Family Coming Home

PASS CHRISTIAN (WLOX) -- An emotional celebration of new beginnings took place in Pass Christian Wednesday morning.

That's where volunteers gathered to dedicate the new home they built for a remarkable family. It was a bittersweet occasion, since the family matriarch died of cancer just last month and never got to see the finished house.

Hundreds worked to build a new home for Emma Swanier, an elderly woman of strong Christian faith, who lost everything in Katrina.

Though she didn't live long enough to enjoy the new house, family and friends are confident she is watching from above.

"Give us this day, our daily bread," a Seattle choir sang, rocking side to side in the late morning sun.

This day, the Swanier family is blessed to receive a new home.

"Thank you for coming. This has been a wonderful project," Red Cross spokesperson Genia Crane told the gathered guests.

Volunteers who lovingly built the new house say the Swanier's are wonderful people.

"And everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God," said Rev. Joseph Pilate, who offered the formal dedication prayers, "We beseech thee, graciously to bless this house."

Tears of joy mingled with tears of sadness at the dedication.

"We lost our grandmother. This was originally her home. We just lost her a month ago. So, it's both a sad and happy occasion. Because she did provide a place for us, which is wonderful," said grand daughter Alisha Swanier.

Before her death, Emma Swanier met many of the volunteers and left an unforgettable impression.

"Whereas Miss Emma Swanier was a lifelong resident of Pass Christian, Mississippi," a city spokesman said, as he read the formal proclamation.

The city recognized this remarkable woman; dedicating the day in her honor and memory.

"This family lived in a FEMA trailer, 30 miles from here, away from this community," said Jim Sullenger who works with Restoration Point Foundation, which helped build the house.

"And on behalf of all you here, we celebrate with the key to the home. Blessings to all," he said.

Margaret Walker fought back the tears as she thanked the many loving hearts who made this day possible.

"I would like to thank God for this wonderful day. And I waited patiently with faith and love. And I know God was going to do it. And I thank my mom. If it weren't for her, we wouldn't have this," said the proud family woman.

The choir sang an all too appropriate dismissal number.

"The storm is passing over, passing over, the storm is passing over," sang the choir.

"Halleluiah, halleluiah, halleluiah. The storm is passing over," echoed the strong voices.

The worst part of the storm may well be over for one faithful, thankful family in Pass Christian.