“March Madness” is many things.
One is tournament basketball, on several levels.
March Madness can also be Spring Break in Florida, or Mexico, perhaps.
But another form of March Madness, since August 29, 2005, is what’s called “Alternative Spring Break.” ASB.
And it’s happening all through the Gulf Coast of Mexico, from Mobile, Alabama all the way west to New Orleans, Louisiana, as thousands of high school and college students, their advisers and other adults, swarm all along the Gulf Coast to help affected families there rebuild their homes and their lives after Hurricane Katrina.
Not too long after the huge storm came ashore and wrecked havoc with everyone and everything in its path, I was in New Orleans for a short visit, and happened to see a classic T-shirt for sale in one of the dozens of such stores in the French Quarter.
The lettering on this particular shirt said: “Katrina, you Bitch!”
After all the billions in property damages it caused, and more than a thousand people it killed, I guess the description on the shirt was appropriate. No, I didn’t buy the shirt.
In the aftermath, some two years and a half years later, people still care about what happened then, and about the incredible amount of rebuilding there still is to do before homeless families all get back in their homes again.
This weekend in the small, rural marsh-land territory of Pearlington, Mississippi, people from all over the United States are arriving to celebrate their own form of March Madness, reaching out for a week, or more, to help their southern brothers and sisters in their continuing battle to set things right again.
Saturday, students and adults from the University of Maryland, The University of Texas at Austin, and adults from Massachusetts, Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado and several other states, arrived at the Pearlington Recovery Center (PRC) with their duffels and gloves in hand, ready to bring a week of hope, hard work and fellowship to area residents so long at wits end.
These early Saturday evening arrivals, some 75 strong, including 12 young adult volunteers in service to Americorp, are but first wave of this coming weeks’ group of some 250+ hurricane relief volunteers that are descending upon this grass roots recovery organization to try to make a difference in people’s lives these next six days.
These caring folks are full of energy, enthusiasm, faith and hope for the task ahead. Many are back for their fourth time as Hurricane relief volunteers, bound and determined to do their best for as long as it takes to undo Katrina’s powerful deeds.
The woods in Pearlington will reverberate loudly this week with the sounds of hammers, chain saws, nail guns, circular saws, battery drills and other tools making scores of noises, as their users move area families farther along the road towards hearth and home again.
At the weeks end, lots of hugs, and some tears, all around, from visitors and residents, as they recount what love, service, dedication and faith can accomplish, how lives of all involved continue to be moved and touched, a nail, a board, a shingle, a length of wire, a sink and bathtub, one at a time.
My part today in the drama during much of the day, was to help formulate plans for future wiring updates on the grounds of the PRC, physically update much of the wiring in many of the lodging facilities, prior to the first wave of volunteers arriving in the early evening, and later to repair old steps to the bunk houses.
Sunday will see me working on installing additional electrical wiring in several of the structures, with the goal of making them more efficient in hosting the hundreds and hundreds of volunteers that will pass through the volunteer camp during this month of March Madness.
What a privilege and blessing to be able to be a small part of the moment, in the lives of the movers and the moved.
This is what I consider, pretty close to heaven…
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