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Hundreds of Volunteers Still Cleaning Up Katrina Destruction on Mississippi Gulf Coast

By Rhonda Miller | Published 16 Jul 2012 05:01pm | comments

Even though it’s been seven years since Hurricane Katrina, 5,000 volunteers are still showing up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast every year. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports.

On a hot, humid morning in Biloxi, 40 high school students and 10 adults from Minnesota are in jeans, work shoes and masks tearing down a one-story house, piece-by-piece. They bang an old air conditioner out of the window, take down shutters and hand out  pieces of drywall through the windows.

Twenty-one-year-old Jay Kiel is a youth minister at First Lutheran Church in Little Falls, Minnesota.

"We’re here with a group of about 400 students, total. When we found out it was Mississippi, we couldn’t be more excited to help out and be able to work in a place that really needs the help and at times we feel maybe gets overlooked."

This is the third mission trip for 15-year-old Haley Olson.

"It’s really cool. We get to help a lot of people." (Have you ever demolished a house before?)  "No, I haven’t, it’s really crazy."  (What have you done, so far?) "Picked up some nails. You can’t do anything without gloves, there’s not enough gloves, but I held a ladder. I drank a lot of water. "

When Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Mississippi Gulf Coast seven years ago, 5,000 volunteers came to help.  Executive Director of Hands On Mississippi, Holly Gibbs says, 5,000 are still coming every year.

"We go out and solicit with non-profits and churches, youth organizations, Boys and Girls Clubs, you name it, to find the groups that want to volunteer, want to take some time, away from what they’re normally doing, do some outreach,  get involved in the community and make a difference."

Gibbs says volunteer labor is valued at about $22 an hour. Since Katrina, volunteers have contributed more than one million hours on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.



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