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Archive for March, 2008

So Tired…

Oh man, I would love to write a post right now, about working the past 5 days with Spring Break volunteers at the Pearlington Recovery Center, but, alas, I am just too damned tired to hit the keys.

Just an awesome 5 days.
Can’t hardly keep my eyes open.

All I can say is: what a great group of 250+ student and adult volunteers from such places as U. of Texas at Austin, UConn, UNC at Chapel Hill, Wake Forest U., U. of Virginia, U. of Mass., Colorado State U., Americorps from Maryland. Listened to a most touching story this evening from a Katrina survivor from Pearlington…

Perhaps tomorrow evening…

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“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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Mun-day Mon-de’

Thoughts from a Monday…

Right now: windy – windy- WINDY!

Storm approaching fast, bustin’ outa Texas and cajun country, headin’ our way fast!

Tornado watch out

Hope the tie-downs are good on this rig! I ain’t got no basement to jump into!

65 outside

80 in here

Relative Humidity in – 45%, THANKS you little $200 Whirlpool dandy!

———————-

This morning, NICE! To the Super’: “Do we have ta work today? Can’t I just go watchin’ the bluebirds houses we put out last Friday to see if there’s any action goin’ on there?”

25 visitors from West Chicago, drove in the lot, down for the week, working with clients every AM in the Gym

11:45am: (10 minutes before my lunch time) “Hey, L.: women’s toilet in the gym is plugged up; have at her…” (isn’t it someone else’s turn for that crap…?)

S**t! that’s right, looks like late lunch today!

Hump on over; out with the launcher – NO PROBLEM! Pipes clear!

Only 5 minutes late for lunch at the cafe – teria

Good thing I got there when I did; here come the 25 hungry visitors, all in a row

Buddy John’s gone to Jackson; time to take Emily tree climbing (squirrell hunting!)!

Painted some rusty ceiling vents in early PM

Put in 8 new ceiling tiles; remediated some mold (Oh yeah, that was fun!); changed some bulbs, tubes…

Oooooooops! Here we go again!

Emergency in Women’s Mockingbird Cottage….!!!!! Twin sinks in south bathroom completely clogged! Get humpin’, boys!!!

Three little blue trucks scream up to Mockingbird 125, hoses, plungers and sewer tapes flying everywhere, as the train comes rumblin’ through! (Honest, it did, just 250 feet away! – you had to be there…)

Two hours later: “S**T, NOW WHAT THE HELL DO WE TRY…?!!!”

“Well, there’s this one thing I had luck with several years ago…..”

“Hells-a-poppin! There she goes!!! Let’s button her up boys, and head for the shop, times-a-wasting; we’re late for our break!!”

Three little blue trucks scream back down the hill, hoses, plungers and sewer tapes still flyin’ everywhere!!! This time, the robins and blackbirds head for the trees, as the boys go rumblin’ through!!!

Go screachin’ to a stop right in front of the shop, the other boys parked on benches already, smokin’ if you got ’em, callin’ out: “Where y’all a-been, boys? You almost missed break…”

If looks could’a killed, weed’a had us maintenance men layin’ all over the place!

Wash up quick, and plop down on a bench

Another day in paradise!

Man, it don’t hardly get no better’n this…….

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Not the best news, for you folks up north, but the fricking robins are still down here, about a flock of a hundred or so on the grounds at the South Mississippi Regional Center in Long Beach. When they DO disappear, I’ll let you know. The blackbirds are still here, too, in big flocks, all over the place. A week ago yesterday, the Center Director had us put up a dozen bluebird houses on poles, around the 45-acre SMRC campus, and already a good half of them have had bluebirds checking them out, for nesting.

I hesitate to tell you, but today was about 75 and sunny here on the coast, with a light breeze… You know, with all the winters I have put in up there, I deserve one like this! I’m flying to North Carolina (Durham) on March 20th and will meet Pat there, for a 4 day visit with our oldest son, Lucas, his wife and two sons (our only grandsons). I’m looking forward to that!

This evening during a beautiful sunset, I drove across the new Bay St. Louis bridge from Pass Christian to Bay St. Louis, to pick up some supplies at Lowe’s in Waveland. It turned really humid this evening, and by the time I arrived back at my trailer, it was covered with moisture. I had to purchase a dehumidifier for the trailer two days ago, as there was so much water vapor inside the trailer shell, that the first signs of some mold were starting to show up on a lower cabinet. So had to bite the bullet and make the purchase I can’t really afford right now; but it had to be done. I am exposed to enough mold at work, and don’t need any in my home.

Tomorrow, Sunday, will see me working at a home in east Gulfport, a couple of blocks north of the beach, attempting to finish up a considerable list of repairs, before working on to another project, after work Tuesday evening. Next weekend, I hope to be able to work over to the west with the Pearlington Recovery Center people on one of the new homes under construction there. The volunteers coming down from up north during this time of year, really make a good choice in getting in on the best weather to be had down here all year round. There is plenty of room for you to come down, and lots of houses left to build and repair here…

Start making your plans for your next trip to Mississippi or New Orleans! Let me know if you need assistance in making arrangements for your stay, and I’ll help you get set up and ready to volunteer!

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Another week nearly through the gate, here on the recovering Mississippi gulf coast. Strangely, there seems to be an armada of airplanes flying directly over my trailer at this very moment. Hmmmm… someone making a movie…??

This past week saw two good friends and fellow volunteers of many years from Wisconsin, Dwight and Dale, spending the week here, helping rebuild a home damage by Hurricane Katrina, over in Biloxi. When they arrived last Saturday morning, I took them on a tour of the coastal area from Gulfport over to Pearlington, on the Louisiana border, so they could get a real good feel for the number Katrina did here on the coast. They worked hard all week, had a good time joking and joshin’ with each other, and seemed to enjoy their week away from the monster Wisconsin winter.

Thursday evening, we got together for supper and conversation, as they related their week’s experiences doing carpentry, re-installing windows that someone else had previously installed rather incorrectly, and trying to install and match siding, something neither had attempted before in their lives. It was a good evening, good food, good conversation, and good fellowship among friends. It was also awesome to be able to spend some quality time visiting with friends from back home, in Wisconsin. Friday evening, after working all day on their project, they packed up and headed back north, to the cold and snow.

Before leaving, the fellows said they would be back; Dale with a Lions Club group, and Dwight, hopefully in October, depending upon his work demands. Dwight says that next time, he would probably prefer to leave the comfortable accommodations of Camp Biloxi, and opt to stay and work over in almost forgotten Pearlington, where no home or structure escaped Katrina’s flood surge. Herbie Ritchie and Larry Randall, Co-Directors of the Pearlington Recovery Center, have organized a grassroots recovery operation there on the Mississippi-Louisiana border, mostly without government help and red tape, to help the families in their small, unincorporated community, to rebuild their homes, one at a time, with volunteer workers and volunteer financial assistance. They have their work cut out for them, but they know that, having dealt with constant delay and disappointment in the rebuilding process during the past 32 months since Katrina paid them a watery and windy visit.

As Katrina swept into his community that dark, stormy morning in August of 2005, and the storm surge waters rolled up his driveway and rose into his home, Herbie and his family had to swim for a boat he had been trying to sell, still parked in his front yard, the only saviour close enough to help the family stay alive. They all finally made it into the boat, just barely. Their home still sits unoccupied, still needing final repairs, before they may leave their nearby travel trailer, and, one again, be home.

Dwight and Dale had the opportunity to meet and briefly talk with Herbie last Saturday, about his continuing efforts to help his community get back on its feet. Our two Wisconsin volunteers will be back, this time to help Herbie and his neighbors, and they can use a lot of help from other volunteers from back in Wisconsin.

The Pearlington Recovery Center is pretty much a self-contained volunteer work camp, having bunks, showers, toilets, a tool room, and a kitchen and a large food tent. It’s not fancy, and is probably what you might call ‘rustic,’ but you can stay there very inexpensively (they ask for a $5.00 donation per each day of your stay) while you are volunteering to help breathe life back into the community. They also need financial donations to help purchase building materials for the homes of families of limited financial means. One thing you will love about the place is all the Spanish Moss growing on the Live Oak trees! Absolutely beautiful!

So, to Dwight and Dale, thanks again for coming down to help out families in need, as you have been doing now for at least 10 years in Mississippi. You are to be commended for your generous, caring hearts and terrific human spirits!

Pearlington Recovery Center

Good job, gentlemen, and y’all hurry back now, hear?

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