This page will be updated during the week of February 10-16 while the "Biloxi 5" are on location in Biloxi. Special thanks to Ruth Fitzgerald and Dave Sageman for transmitting photos and commentary during the week. (Items will be added in reverse chronological order - i.e., most recent on top.)
Day 5 - Friday: The slogan for today is..."another day, another kitchen". While Lynne and Ruth continued the work at Brenda's house on Heidenheim, Jim, Dick and Dave were put to work on a high priority job two doors down the street. Someone had installed kitchen cabinets incorrectly, so Jim, Dick and Dave took them out and re-installed them correctly today. Lynne and Ruth finished up and joined them for some of the final touches, staining and hanging doors and installing kickboard. It was a very busy day and we're all tired.
Tonight is cleanup night in the trailer, and we all have to pack for a very early (5:30 a.m.) departure from Biloxi.
We are all very satisfied with our week. One of the nice things has been to be able to put finishing touches on three different houses that will allow people to move in very soon. Brenda's electricity was hooked up today and she was very excited about that. We feel we really contributed here and we were struck by how grateful the people were whose homes we worked on. They have waited so long for this, living in very difficult conditions, and it's nice to be part of the effort that allows them to get their lives back to "the new normal". Photos from Friday, Feb. 15
Day 4 - Thursday: We had another really good day today. The weather was cool, but sunny. The challenges here continue.....but they are good challenges and all things we can do that we feel are really contributing and helpful to the homeowners and to Back Bay Mission. Today we completed our work on Keller Avenue and moved to a new jobsite on Heidenheim Ave.....some of the Biloxi 26 from 2007 remember working on a house on Heidenheim Ave....this is a different house. It's a new home to replace a home lost to Katrina, and the homeowner has a story (as does everyone who rode out Katrina). One of the things that Don Morgan told us the first day is to take the time to listen to the stories, as that is part of the healing process. Here is Brenda's story:
During Katrina, Brenda, her husband, her daughter, her four grandchildren and a disabled uncle had to move to the attic as the flood waters rose. In their area, the storm surge rose to 25 feet. When water started to reach the attic, they kicked out the vent cover and climbed out onto a tree and swam from there to another tree in their yard that was big enough to hold them all together. When they climbed out of the attic, hanging from the tree (miraculously) was a life preserver which they used for the disabled uncle, who otherwise would not have been able to swim to the tree. They clung to the tree for hours while the storm howled around them with winds over 100 mph. At one point the winds blew her grandson out of the tree into the water, but her husband reached down and grabbed him as he surged past in the water. When the waters receded a bit, they swam back to the attic. They also lost everything but the clothes they were wearing. Brenda told us that she saved that shirt and was actually wearing it today. She said "it's not about what you lost, it's about faith" and she also said "God gave me a new beginning. He swept away everything in my life so that I could start fresh."
Photos from Thursday, Feb. 14
Day 3 - Wednesday: We had a great day today. After a huge storm yesterday, today started out very cold. O.k., o.k., not as cold as Connecticut, but cold enough for us to need to take a propane heater to the house we're working on. (In case we haven't mentioned, we have no power or water at the house we're working on (and quite a long walk to a port-a-potty). We really accomplished alot at 364 Keller today. We took part of the afternoon off to see a bit more of Biloxi while the stain on our cabinets was drying, then went back after dinner (and after a wonderful Wednesday evening church service at the Main Street Baptist Church) to work some more with rigged up lights. We still managed to get back to the trailer in time for a few cutthroat games of setback!!
We haven't yet passed along the story of the man whose house we're working on. His name is Lonnie and he works at a local fish plant. His home was completely destroyed by Katrina--he escaped with only the clothes on his back. His brother told us today that Lonnie went to his mom's house to stay with her during the storm. They were joined by their other brother who had the presence of mind to bring life preservers from his boat. They ended up "swimming" in the water and clinging to the side of the house. His mother got a bad infection from being in the very dirty water surge. Lonnie is hoping to be in his house in about two weeks. He's been living in a very small FEMA trailer for over two years and he's very ready to be back in his house. His house ended up in the street, completely ruined, so the house we are working on is new and built to the new hurricane flood specifications. Photos from Wednesday, Feb. 13
Day 2 - Tuesday: We headed back early Tuesday morning to 364 Keller Street. Today we finished installation of the kitchen cabinets--tomorrow we'll finish sanding, staining and applying polyurethane. We also installed transition threshold at all the doorways between rooms. While the morning was beautiful, in the afternoon we had very heavy rain and thunderstorms. This afternoon we attended the meeting with Sherry Prestemon at Back Bay Mission, then we entertained our neighbors from Middlebury (from the next trailer) for our evening meal....we also had Don Morgan and volunteer coordinators John and Pam Small. Photos from Tuesday, Feb. 12
Day 1 - Monday: We had our morning meeting with the 56 other volunteers that are working for Back Bay Mission this week. Don Morgan stressed that they now call Mondays "Patience Mondays" as it takes a while to sort out who will go where and getting everyone assigned to a job. The five of us take on the job of installing kitchen cabinets (and some other stuff) at 364 Keller Avenue. While in some ways it seems like a slow start, as we have to go to the hardware store (repeatedly) we still manage to accomplish alot by the end of the workday....we have most of the kitchen cabinets installed. Tomorrow we install the rest and start to stain them. At morning meeting, Don also makes a point to tell everyone that it's "a new day at Back Bay".....that they are doing much more new construction. As a side note to the original Biloxi 24....we went by Howard Avenue...not much has changed from last year. Photos from Monday, Feb. 11
Day 0 - Sunday: Dave and Ruth arrived in the early afternoon, did the grocery shopping and made dinner. Lynne, James and Dick had a little airplane trouble on their way down, but arrived safely not too much later than planned. It was nice to catch up over dinner. The Middlebury folks in the trailer next door had travel troubles also and arrived quite a bit later than they originally planned (maybe getting here is rarely easy??). Monday morning our work week starts with a 7:30 a.m. meeting to find out what projects are going on and where we'll all be assigned. The five of us are hoping to stay together for the week and we're all hoping for a nice "juicy" project where we can really accomplish something this week. Photos from Monday morning, Feb. 11