Employees Trade Cushy Office Jobs For Volunteer Work

BILOXI (WLOX) -- A national non-profit organization that for years has helped hurricane relief by donating money is now putting in some sweat equity. On Monday, employees of Neighbor Works America traded in their cushy office jobs to do back breaking work as volunteers in Biloxi.

The co-workers are used to operating computers, not shovels. Their typical work day includes soaking up the AC not hauling out storm debris.

Neighbor Works America director Tom Deyo said, "It's just great to see them out from behind a desk and taking on some real tools and feeling what eight hours really means."

Hillary Rowe works as a management consultant in the Atlanta office.

"I really admire people who stay out here from 7 a.m. until 5 or 6 o'clock doing this type of work. It's very difficult. So I have much respect for them."

All the volunteers are employees for Neighbor Works America. The non-profit has donated $100,000 to the East Biloxi Coordination Relief and Redevelopment Agency to rebuild homes lost in Katrina.

"We've been working from afar in the Gulf," said volunteer Betsy Wallace. "But to now do hands-on, be involved, pick up a paint brush has been really satisfying."

Since the workers come from offices in places like Georgia, Louisiana, and Washington, DC, they say communication is usually through emails and telephone calls. Now they're getting a chance to spend time together while helping others.

"I think this is really unique because my coworkers are from all over the country," said Rowe. "So we're able to get together and put some sweat equity in, so it's really a lot of fun. "

Neighbor Works volunteers say seeing for themselves where the money goes and who it helps gives them more incentive to keep the funding coming.

Deyo said, "It's rewarding to come down and participate in the work they're doing. Feel their energy, feel their enthusiasm for it. Pick up some of that energy and take it back with us, so we remember the cause down here and keep our focus on it. "

The volunteers will continue their work Tuesday as part of Neighbor Works week. Officials say there are volunteers working at 240 other sites around the country.