Monday, December 31, 2007

We're back!

We arrived home safely after two uneventful flights. Some of us are off to New Year's celebrations. The rest of us are happy to be home to get some rest and to take a hot shower for as long as we want.

Overall, we had a wonderful time in Mississippi. Many friendships blossomed. At the airport, Facebook addresses were shared, and photos were swapped. We hope to stay in touch and get together at some point in the next few weeks to share our memories.

Thanks for your support! We were only in Mississippi 1 week. Please keep in mind that for the residents of Pass Christian, Gulfport, Biloxi, and many more towns, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is a daily affair. There is so much we can do to help, whether it be through donations, prayers, or appreciation for what we have been given.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sad to Say Goodbye

We had a great last day of work, but it was also a bittersweet one. We have grown to love the people of Mississippi, who have been so kind and generous. We will miss talking to Steve over his cup of coffee. We will miss Helen and Mable, who chose bright colors for their walls to combat the dreariness the hurricane brought into their lives. We will miss the stray dogs and Buddy, the little dog who was always by Skip's (Square Foot Ministries) side. We will miss Karen's (Project Hope and Compassion) vivacity and boundless energy. We will miss the other volunteers who brought with them the determination to make a difference in the face of overwhelming hopelessness.

We sent two groups back to Steve and Debvie's house, and they were able to finish almost all of the ceiling and 80% of the drywalling. The third group continued their painting crusade and were able to paint a deck, a ton of rails for another deck, and base board.

At the end of the day, we had the privilege of presenting the nail gun, drywall screw guns, and other equipment to Skip and Carolyn at Square Foot Ministries. As I mentioned before, it was sad to say goodbye, as we had grown fond of them. Skip presented the group with one of his jackets. It was especially meaningful because he had lost most of his possessions in the hurricane. The group decided to give the jacket to Janet Wehner because of her role in planning for the trip.

Tomorrow, we will return home to Maryland, but each of us will take with us something that will stay with us forever. Whether it was hearing the stories of survival, listening to the train as it rumbled through the heart of the town, seeing the difference one person can make, making new friends, or simply getting to know a grandmother better, we all have cherished memories from this experience that we will share with you when we get back.

Thank you for checking this blog. We appreciate your prayers and your help in making this a successful trip! We hope to return. With your support, we can continue to make a difference in Mississippi.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fish Fry

We finally had the big fish fry, and it was excellent. We had fried catfish, hush puppies and corn balls, and French fries. The fish was so good that Joe Amoyal got the recipe.

We also got a chance to present the Nativity Giving Tree gift cards, and they were greatly appreciated. Father Pete said that donations were strong after the storm but have tapered off. The cards will help with purchasing extra materials when people run out of money. He hopes that our group will be able to return so that we can use some of the equipment that they have purchased.

We found that Square Foot Ministries, where we are working, was short on supplies, so we purchased a nail gun, two drywall screw guns, a T-square, tape measurers, nails, and other necessary supplies to work on our projects. We were able to purchase these materials through the generosity of the parishioners of Church of the Nativity.

Today, we put up more dry wall. We had two teams going in one house, so it was very crowded, but active. The third team continued painting (we will try to let them have a break from that tomorrow). They also found a stray dog and took her to the humane society.

We attended Mass at Holy Family Parish. The Mass was given by a visiting priest from Michigan, who had come with another group of volunteers. The Mass was at the same parish where we ate last night. The resident priest, Father Dennis, thanked all of the volunteers for their help. When he asked the volunteers at Mass to stand up, it was half the people in the church. The altar servers were so cute. There were three of them, and they looked about 6 years old.

I forgot to mention that Marie Amoyal has been helping out in the kitchen at Project Hope all week. She has been cleaning, organizing, and helping plan the meals. All of the more than 100 volunteers staying at Project Hope greatly appreciate her help. The meals have been delicious!

Another group arrived tonight from Indiana. It's great to see so many volunteers. Thanks for your continued prayers.

By the way, Happy Birthday to Terry McTeague!

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Rainy Day

We had a rainy day today, but in the afternoon, the sun came out, and the weather was great. It is in the 70s. The painting group continued their work today, and the girls on this team have really bonded. The second work group continued their work on the the dry wall project they started yesterday. The last group started putting up dry wall on the ceiling of the house (after they had completed the insulation yesterday).

We were invited by the town of Pass Christian to a dinner sponsored by the local Knights of Columbus. The mayor was there, and he thanked us for our help. He shook each and every volunteer's hand. He gave a poignant speech in which he thanked Hurricane Katrina because it gave his town the chance to make so many new friends. His town was 1 mile wide and 6 miles long, but now he knows it goes from coast to coast from all the friends that came and helped. He knows the future is bright because of all the young people who have come to help.

We are excited because tomorrow will be a catfish fry. We got red beans and rice and jumbalaya tonight, so we are enjoying the Southern hospitality. We have to bring home some recipes for the cafe :o)

Thanks for checking the blog. Please keep the people of Mississippi in your prayers.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Our first day of work

We had our first work day today and got a lot done. We broke into three groups. The first group hung dry wall on the ceiling and the walls of one home. The second painted the entire interior of another house. The third group put in insulation.

We got the opportunity to meet the home owners. One home owner was Mable who is turning 72 tomorrow. Her address is 385 1/2 Seal Avenue (we don't know how that is possible). The second was an elderly Asian couple who did not speak much English. The third owner was Steve, who barely survived the hurricane in the attic of his roof, with the water up to his neck. His house lifted off the foundation and floated "like a cork" several blocks away. He is still feeling the stress of the experience and trying to regroup after losing everything.

We also saw the Pass Christian library, now the headquarters of Square Foot Ministries. The police retreated to the library because they were trying to evacuate people when the storm started. The water reached to the ceiling, and they had to shoot out the door and swim under water to get out. Square Foot kept the shattered door in place as a reminder of their bravery .

We are really enjoying our stay at Project Hope and Compassion. We saw some familiar faces from last year, a group from Atlanta and another one from San Francisco. There is also a large (75 people) youth group here lead by a very strict but friendly priest. He has been keeping them in line, so they have not caused any trouble. Lights out at 10 pm on the dot!

We appreciate your prayers and support. People always ask if there is more work to be done in Mississippi and New Orleans after 2 1/2 years, but there is still so much to do. Some progress has been made, but there is still so much we can do to help. Now, we are going to get some well-deserved sleep!

We arrived!

We arrived after a very early flight. It was amazing to see how different the airport looks after only a year. Last year, we had to get our rental vans from a trailer in the airport parking lot. Now, there are car rental kiosks on the bottom floor of the airport. There are flat screen TVs and vendors. It looks like a regular airport.

We took a trip to see New Orleans. We saw the 9th Ward. It was amazing to see a camp of pink tents set up by the Make It Right campaign. I believe that is the one Brad Pitt is supporting, to build environmentally friendly houses. It was nice to see a ray of hope where otherwise nothing has been done. The gutted houses are still there, and so are the spray-painted messages such as "SPCA dog dead inside." Definitely very depressing.

Thanks for checking the blog. 

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Training Session

On December 8th, Our Mississippi group received valuable training on the Art of drywall.

Two very skilled professional, Mr. John Baker and Mr. Roger William spent many hours training members of the team on the many facets of drywall. The two professional taught the group in how to measure and cut drywall. They also taught us how to attach drywall to studs. They also demonstrated on how to compensate for electric boxes. The two teachers also taught the group how to finish and also how to handle corners. Everyone who was able to attend felt they are much better prepared to help the citizens of Mississippi.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Thanks so much for visiting our web site. We're getting excited about our trip. We have a greatgroup of 26 people and hope to accomplish a lot during our week in Mississippi. We plan to usethis web site to keep you posted on our progress. Please keep us in your prayers. Have a MerryChristmas!