Hurricane Katrina

Bobbie Hawkins: A gift that can't be repaid

Name: Bobbie Hawkins.

Location: Rich Avenue, Gulfport.

Before the storm: Hawkins lived in her one-story brick house on Rich Avenue, where she raised three children and five grandchildren, for 30 years.

How did you survive the storm? Hawkins evacuated to her sister's home in Newton. Three days after Katrina struck, she drove a U-Haul full of water and supplies to the Coast, worried about her boss who had stayed to ride out the storm. Her boss was OK, but her house, which it took her over three weeks to get to, wasn't.

"I didn't have anything left, just one glass bowl," Hawkins said, adding the storm surge rose to her roof. Among her destroyed belongings lay rotting chicken, making Hawkins sick as she tried to salvage anything left of her home.

How are you surviving now? Hawkins planned to bulldoze the remains of her house, the thought of building back in the same place where she had lost everything was more difficult to stomach than the rotting chickens. But Hawkins said her pastor and friend of 25 years, Dan Carr of Faith Baptist Church, wouldn't hear of it.

"He said, 'We can fix it,'

" said Hawkins.

Faith Baptist got started right away, raising all the money for the house, with volunteers beginning construction in early October. "There had been nothing left but bricks," Hawkins said. "They did everything from scratch... all the wiring, electric, painting, everything."

Construction was finished in early July, and now Hawkins is busy moving her belongings into the new house from her FEMA trailer in Long Beach.

"This is a gift I can never repay," she said.

Hawkins looks forward to aging gracefully in her new home and having many gatherings there with her children and grandchildren.