Hope City's hope for Katrina victims is about to end

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - After more than three years and thousands of coast homes built or repaired, a volunteer group is preparing to say goodbye to the Mississippi Gulf coast. Shortly after Katrina, a group of Indiana churches formed Hope City to organize and house volunteers wanting to come here to do recovery work.

When Kaye Van Pelt decided to come from Indiana to volunteer, she worried she wouldn't have as much to contribute as the rest of the group.

"I knew all the girls that were coming down would have special talents like painting or something like that and I just didn't know what my talent was going to be," Van Pelt said.

But over a few days and a few coats of paint, Van Pelt found her niche.

"I help with holding the paint when they need it. Pour the paint. I've been sanding and just jobs like that," she said.

This all-woman painting crew is among the more than 3,000 volunteers who have come to lend a hand through Hope City, a recovery group started by northwestern Indiana churches.

Monte Brenneman is with Hope City.

"We've done over 1,500 projects and that includes anything from gutting a house to building new houses," Brenneman said. "We got into building new houses last year. Many lives have changed for the good. It's not just the people in this area. It's the volunteers who come. It changes their lives to be able to give."

Among the ladies are human resource directors, emergency workers, and retirees who say in a short time of volunteering they've become like sisters. And what they've learned is to never doubt their ability to do good.

Beth Darley is an artist who's putting those talents to work in south Mississippi.

"There's not anything that I don't think that I can do because I know that God is going to be there to help me with it," said Darley.

Hope City officials say they will have volunteers working until mid-November. In the meantime, the group is working to finish the six houses it's started.