Habitat Volunteers Doing 'Amazing' Work In Storm Battered East Biloxi - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Habitat Volunteers Doing 'Amazing' Work In Storm Battered East Biloxi

By Brad Kessie

BILOXI (WLOX) -- The framing frenzy across from the Biloxi Lighthouse is just one aspect of Habitat for Humanity's massive volunteer initiative. Two thousand people from around the world are in south Mississippi. And they're using hammers and power saws to bring hurricane victims' dreams back to life. 

On day two of the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, part of the rebuilding focus was on east Biloxi. That's where Brittani Martin was working.  She came from southern Illinois. Louisa Galassini was from San Francisco. Jen Turner flew in from Denver. The three women met at a hurricane damaged lot on Huff Alley in Biloxi. And along with dozens of other volunteers, they built a new Habitat for Humanity home for the Bradleys.

Every person at the construction site had a personal reason for being in Biloxi for the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. Take Jeff Moore. The Atlanta man uses his vacation to attend the annual work initiative.

"Simply for me it means I'm using God's talents that he gave me to help other people," he said as he hammered a sheet of plywood onto the Bradley's new roof.

Jen Turner's responsibility was on the ground. As she used a power saw to cut a two by four, she proudly said, "Somebody's going to have a good home in a few days that didn't."

Huff Alley is normally a quiet street near Biloxi's Yankie Stadium that's lined with oak trees and shotgun style homes. Because of construction noise created by Habitat for Humanity and the Carter Work Project, three families on Huff, and seven others in east Biloxi who've all struggled since the storm, got quite a gift.

That makes Louisa Galassini's Americorp efforts so rewarding.

"I just think about the family that's going to move in. And I think we get to hand over keys on Friday. And that's just an amazing feeling," she said.

One of the local Habitat staff members on Huff Alley was Irving Spikes. The former NFL player looked around at the crowd of volunteers and said, "It's just overwhelming. I mean without these volunteers coming down to the coast help Mississippi people rebuild, I mean, it's beyond words. I mean you just can't explain it."

In some ways, Spikes' life mirrored south Mississippi and Katrina. The star athlete ended up in jail on gun violations. So, he's slowly rebuilding his life. And he's doing so by building Habitat homes for families who saw their lives crumble to the ground during and after the hurricane.

"I had to sit down and pray, had to take it back down to my roots, because I forgot where I came from," he admitted.

Now, that he's back on his feet, Spikes is showing Carter Work Project volunteers what it takes to get south Mississippi back on its feet. Jen Turner is more than willing to help out.

"Well they need lots of help. And we can offer it," the Denver woman said.

Just then, she looked up toward the roof of the new house she was building. There was Jeff Moore, overlooking a hurricane damaged neighborhood that was changing before his very eyes.

"It's lovely. It's just a wonderful feeling," he said.

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