Homegrown Katrina disaster relief group enters new phase

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - The D'Iberville Volunteers Foundation is in the process of closing down its campsite on Lamey Bridge Road. Some of the group's accomplishments since August 29th, 2005 include one-thousand homes rehabilitated, 40 new homes built, 35 months with a soup kitchen and a free medical clinic that operated for six months.

Over the last few years, 7,310 volunteers came through. Volunteers say this is not goodbye, but the start of a new phase.

When the number of people coming in asking for help dwindled, the people at D'Iberville Volunteers Foundation said they knew it was time for change. Irene McIntosh is the organization's president.

"We're sort of in a transition period. We're breaking down the camp," McIntosh said.

Tucked among the boxes is a wealth of knowledge on how a small town can survive a large scale disaster. Instead of letting that information collect dust, the foundation is writing a manual and is already mentoring small towns in Iowa, Texas and Louisiana.

"I remember what it was like and how we could have moved faster if we had just known how to do it better. We just didn't have anything. We didn't have a model," said McIntosh.

"What we are able to do is share that with small towns so they just cut off a lot of that dead time or the time where you're repeating stuff that didn't work," McIntosh said.

Most of the 50 tents that once housed volunteers are gone from the campsite and officials say many of the supplies were donated to other non-profits. Some of equipment is being kept to stock the new mobile disaster relief trailer with power tools, ladders, propane stoves, a washer/dryer and more.

Vice President Ed Cake said, "Couple days notice we could set up shop somewhere and people that would start coming in for another disaster. It's not if a disaster comes, it will be when."

The foundation has operated for three years without a single paid employee. The Foundation staff says they are moving forward and not moving away because this is home.

McIntosh said, "This is happiness. We are so fortunate to have lived from the begining to the end of one phase of the foundation and to see it begin the next phase. We don't know where all we'll go as a foundation, but we know there are still roles for us to play. Lots of them that we haven't found yet. So none of us around this place are sad. We are just extraordinarily grateful."

Irene McIntosh and Ed Cake are co-writing a book called "When the Government Doesn't Come You Can Still Survive: What Every Little Town Needs to Know After a Disaster."

Meanwhile, D'Iberville city officials say they plan to turn the campsite back into a baseball field as it was before Katrina.