Employees take off work to volunteer

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - They took the day off from work, and picked up paint brushes.

"I don't try to do this for a living," said Julie Hatch.

Julie Hatch and six co-workers are employees of Mississippi Power. On Friday, they had a very different task -- give a Katrina-damaged house in Biloxi a fresher look.

"This was one of the things that we're doing this year, is not just giving money, but giving of our time," said Ben Vance, who works in Regulatory Affairs at Mississippi Power.

"Oh, I love them. They're great, just great," said the home owner Theresa Olson. "Me and my son are so appreciative for them to come help us."

More than 125 employees from 17 businesses, including WLOX-TV, took time off from work Friday to take part in the United Way of South Mississippi's "Day of Caring". The projects ranged from simple home repairs to new construction. In Gulfport, a group from the Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau gave the doors and windows at the de L'epee Deaf Center an exterior make-over.

"We're out here because it's a great opportunity to do something for the community," said Janet Harrington.

"I always wanted to do that since the storm, especially at other places and stuff like that. But you never seem to be able to find the time to get away from work," said Jaffe Perniciaro.

"It's fun," said their boss Richard Forester. "It's better than sitting at the office I can tell you, even with the rain."

The jobs may seem small, but the volunteers know little touches can make all the difference in the world.

"Just because it was the thing to do," said Hatch, as tears filled her eyes. "I have it better than other people, and if I can help them out in anyway, that's what I need to do."

The volunteers worked on eleven projects. Afterwards, they gathered at the SportsPlex in Gulfport to celebrate their accomplishments and hold a campaign rally for United Way.