Katrina + 10

They keep coming back: 'Help is still needed'

AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD
Sam Smalls, center, helps to re-roof a home in Pascagoula while on his 25th volunteer trip to South Mississippi since Hurricane Katrina.
AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD Sam Smalls, center, helps to re-roof a home in Pascagoula while on his 25th volunteer trip to South Mississippi since Hurricane Katrina. SUN HERALD

Sam Small, 68, of Glasgow, Ky., was on the Coast in March to help install a handicap-accessible shower, re-roof a trailer and work on a small house in Pascagoula.

It was the relief volunteer's 25th trip to South Mississippi since Katrina. His first was in October 2005.

He comes solo and links with church groups he has become accustomed to working with. In March, he came for a week.

"I had never been a volunteer before Katrina," he said. "What kept me coming back is not only the need for physical help, but also the love and the friendships I developed with the other volunteers.

"There's definitely a need here. With the climate and the pesky termites, there's always a call here to upgrade living conditions, well beyond the Katrina recovery.

"I don't think Katrina recovery will ever be over, officially."

He said he's proud that part of his life legacy is mission work along the Coast. And he said he believes he'll always come back to Mississippi, if just to spend time with people and have meals with friends.

"My wife says I'm a different person since I came down here," he said. "I see life from a whole different approach. I live life with less and appreciate more."

Mike Roberts has been bringing roofing crews from Lakeland, Fla., to the Mississippi Coast every year since Katrina.

They started disaster work with 2004's Hurricane Charley in southwest Florida. Then Katrina recovery became their focus.

Standing in a yard near the end of a small road north of Interstate 10 in Gautier earlier this year, Roberts said they still come because there's need.

The group he assembles is from the church he pastors, Gapway Baptist in Lakeland. They host car washes and spaghetti dinners to raise travel money. They often meet up with Eric Long and a crew of Methodists from Trinity On The Hill in Augusta, Ga., or several other churches.

They're roofers. But in Gautier they were building a wheelchair ramp as well as a new roof over a battered trailer.

"We shifted from hurricane relief to hurricane rebuilding to community rebuilding," he said. "We go where the need is.

"It's amazing what you find that's been left behind.

"Two years ago, we found two widow women living in one room of their house."

They had been living that way in east Moss Point since Katrina. A mixed bag of transient contractors and businesses had left them with incorrectly installed new windows that had holes around them. An improper roof had no vents and the cabinets in the kitchen were unfinished.

Roberts said his crew replaced the roof, enabling the women to live in more of their home.

The jobs come to Roberts and his crew through Community of Hope, which formed in 2011 from leftover Katrina-response efforts.

He said for his crew, the work is ministry, and a chance to do ministry somewhere other than home.

"It's fun a time; there's always fellowship," he said. "We're like a big family."

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