Mississippi Relief 2005-2008- becoming “the hands, thoughts, and arms of God in action.”

Bell tower remains at Christ Episcopal Church, Bay St. Louis, Missippi in mid-October 2005.

After August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina landed on New Orleans and the Mississippi, Camp Coast Care was formed to be a Christian community of faith to provide volunteer support for the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort.  Camp Coast Care’s mission was the reconstruction of homes on the Mississippi. Funding began with the Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD).  Camp Coast care provided the work schedules, 3 meals and housing.

St. George’s began a 3 year mission partnership St. Pierre’s Mission east of Biloxi in Gautier, Miss after a request from the ERD. The Church had only minor damage but parishioner home suffered severe damage or were lost.  In the early years cleanup was the main activity.  The first trip was taken in late December 2005. 

3 trips occurred in 2006, April 16-23, July 26 to Aug 1, 2006 and then in December 2006 for four nights. The goal was to do at least two trips a year. 1/3 of the Easter offering of $1,635 went to the program in 2006.           

A 2006 newsletter printed a letter from “Eleanor” who attended St. Pierre. She was a teacher who lived in a FEMA trailer in her front year though alternately she stayed with friends. Her home was damaged and had several feet of water. The St. George’s team spent an afternoon clearing trees and debris.

“Thanks so much for the work that you did in my yard. While I would rather work in my yard than do “FEMA” financial paper work, your time and energy allowed me to do more of what I need to do. After working all day at school, it is very discouraging to even think about going to your damaged house and working again, much less have the emotional energy to deal with all the paperwork…You all have added to my life and are a definite part of my hurricane recovery. Thanks again for your work, and labor, and love in Christ”

A second letter was received from “Eleanor”:

“I wanted to write to your parish and express my sincere appreciation for your support to my fellow parishioners and our church family in time of need. It is very heartwarming to know that those who had not been aware of us prior to Katrina gave us support in so many ways. The prayers, gifts, and those persons who came here were the hands, thoughts, and arms of God in action. Thank you again for that blessing.”

A team of 6 went in June, 2007 with 8 volunteers and then 3 volunteers in December. St. George’s contributed $1,000 of the Easter Offering in 2007. 6 participants funded their own air fare.

Various types of help were needed at Camp Coast Care:  administrative, clerical, cooking, painting, drywall, mudding, outdoor cleanup, installing doors, windows, and cabinets. Thus, the mission had moved beyond simply cleaning up to rebuilding.  Jim Lewis and Larry Fillian served as construction site leaders.  Kelly Sparr was a coordinator for the trip.

Fletcher Wells wrote the following about the trip after the December, 2007 trip – “Tom (Digges) said that the Gulf Coast is like the Grand Canyon: you never know of the splendor or terror of nature until you see it firsthand.  He commented on how there are uprooted houses and on the next plot of land stands a pristine house seemingly spared from the wrath of Katrina.  Because of this disparity in building there are new codes in place to help strengthen houses that will be built. 

“Beyond the building Tom said the single biggest need to the people of the Gulf Coast is jobs.  Since the hurricane there have not been any jobs available to the working class people of the Gulf Coast.  Finally, Tom says there is great hope.  With the new management in place at Camp Coast Care and the love from parishes such as ours the Gulf Coast will not be forgotten. “

A trip in June 14-25, 2008 had 5 participants– Jim Lewis, Kelly Sparr, Tracey Hormuth, Fletcher Wells and Tom Digges.

Tracey Hormuth wrote the following for the August, 2008 newsletter:

“Camp Coast Care, Long Beach, Mississippi, a ministry of Lutheran Episcopal services in MS hosted a joint team of 5 St. Georgians and three new volunteers from Christ Lutheran church. It has been 3 years since hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast and there is still much to be done. Camp Coast Care coordinates work teams year round and is now working at “Ground Zero” where the hurricane made landfall in Waveland MS. Over the three years they have assisted hundreds of families in returning to their homes and properties. The needs are changing with approximately 890,000 MS residents who did not own and were renting before the storm hit, as the hardest remaining to be served.

“We worked on two homes at very different stages of completion. The first house was on the verge of being completed with a house blessing being the final step before the resident could move in. This house belonged to an elegant 87 year old women who described herself as “An original creole”. She was the mother of 13, grandmother of 70 and had over 300 descendants in five generations. We cleared and cleaned up her lot, installed her kitchen appliances, installed a storm door, cleaned and swept her house and poured concrete sidewalks.  We worked primarily with our dynamic and talented crew under the able leadership of Jim Lewis while having the pleasure of working with folks from Iowa, MD and NC.

“The second house we were assigned was just beginning to come together. The original house on the site was built in the 1800’s and had been in the family ever since. The home was within two blocks of the Gulf. The owners rode out the hurricane in the second story taking enough pictures during the storm and in the aftermath to fill two albums. The family tried to work with the local historical commission, but it proved to be too slow and would likely be too costly, so they turned to Camp Coast Care. We arrived on site with over 20 other crew members who swarmed in to put two coats of paint on the exterior of the two story house, we also insulated the walls and ceilings and began installing dry wall. The house had been largely at a stand still for six months since a group of Mennonites framed it in the winter. The homeowners were so excited to see progress and have someone to share with, they spent much of the day sharing pictures and stories with anyone who would listen. When completed, three generations would live in this house modeled after the original historic home.

“Our Fredericksburg crew also managed to enjoy our downtime in the evenings with a trip to New Orleans as well as a local restaurant where the residents thanked us for all that we are doing to get them back on their feet. There is still much to do in this area. Each visit illustrates progress and continued need. There is much still to be done and many talents needed. Think about being a part of this meaningful and moving ministry to our neighbors, special skills not required. However you must be willing to laugh well and often, it’s the key to our success!”

The recovery was slow. As of December 1, 2008, Mississippi officials estimated there were still 1748 FEMA trailers in use, and 2400 MEMA cottages.  Another trip was planned in 2009 but 2008 saw the last trip. In 2012, the remaining funds of $2,077.91 were transferred to the “Home Team”, a collective account for mission trips.