What Makes Something “Newsworthy”?

November 24, 2012

Our church is trying to collect food and blankets for the people left homeless by Hurricane Sandy. In the past we sent aid to the victims of Katrina (food as well as laborers) and figure the people facing a cold winter needed our help even more.

So, I submitted information to various community newspapers and bulletin boards, but the information was never made available to the people of Forsyth County, GA. Many service and social events are listed, but the publishers haven’t found room to let people know about our efforts.

Perhaps I’m not doing it right. Any thoughts or suggestions?


We Need Your Help

March 3, 2010

A home built sixteen feet above sea level

About three thousand families remain homeless along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Most are probably living in government provided trailers, or with friends or family, but they’d all love to be able to move back to their own homes.

Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. While New Orleans got all the headlines, the brunt of the storm hit Waveland, Mississippi. There, a thirty foot storm surge totally wiped out many homes and businesses. New Orleans could blame much of their damage on the failure of their levees – after Katrina had moved on. Mississippi could blame nothing other than the hurricane.

So, after nearly five years, why are there still three thousand families unable to go home? The main problem: insurance companies found reasons to avoid paying the claims. In that area of the country, normal homeowner’s insurance means very little. One must also carry flood insurance and wind insurance, and then hope that your home is destroyed by something other than a “named” storm. Families need additional insurance when the storm is given a name.

In addition, charitable relief groups have run out of money. Government funding and grants from other sources have dried up. The only hope families have is to save enough money to pay for the materials to rebuild. There are still plenty of volunteers coming from all over to help. Personal savings and volunteer labor can put people back in their homes… eventually.

Last week, I stayed at the Mission on the Bay camp in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi and worked on two homes. One, in Gulfport, was nearing completion. It was located about five miles inland and might have survived the storm… until the roof collapsed. The insurance company wouldn’t pay the claim because the owner didn’t have flood insurance. The owner pitched in and helped us whenever he could. His job involved twelve hour days working with mentally handicapped children at a state hospital.

The second home I worked on was the heartbreaker. It was in Waveland. The owner had built the home himself, and he certainly built it to last. It was approximately twenty-five years old and held together throughout the storm. There was no wind damage to mention, but that thirty foot surge of water left it in ruins.

The authorities declared it inhabitable and the family was provided with a very small trailer. With no money to rebuild, they could do nothing until our volunteer group was able to place them on our schedule. In the past few weeks, they were able to watch as we dismantled their home.

Our supervisor made it clear to us; we were not demolishing the home, we were deconstructing it. We carefully reversed the building process, pulled nails out of boards, and stacked the lumber neatly. The hope of the owners is to use that lumber to rebuild their home.

After being under water (salt water no less) for hours and open to weathering for more than four and a half years, you can imagine the condition of the lumber. We had to discard more than half the boards as totally useless.

And yet, the owners were thrilled to have us bring down their home. They’ve known for years it had to be done before they could take the next step, but they couldn’t afford to pay anyone to do it.

Realistically, the lumber that remains is a drop in the bucket of what they need. For one thing, the current concrete slab (all that remains) is about six feet above sea level. The local ordinance (changed after Katrina) requires homes be built at least sixteen feet above sea level. Thus, the first thing they must do is put in some sort of piers to raise the house ten feet about ground level. (Do the math, a thirty foot surge would still put the houses under water, but building any higher would be unrealistic.)

The contractors working with Mission on the Bay tell us it would take approximately $60,000 dollars worth of material to rebuild that one home in Waveland. Right now, no one has that money.

As for the labor… that was another heartwarming part of our trip. Our group of nine representing Christ the King Lutheran Church in Cumming, Georgia was joined by a few folks from California and a small contingent from another state. In addition, there were about thirty college students who had flown in from New Hampshire and about fifty high school students from Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Those Canadian kids had raised $20,000 to pay for the trip. They came by bus, spent a day in New York City and ate one meal in New Orleans. Otherwise, their mid winter break from school was spent helping others. There is hope for the future!!

I invite my readers to visit the Mission on the Bay web site. Take the time to learn what this group is doing. Then, if you can find it in your heart and wallet, send them a donation. Even if you can only afford a dollar, if we can get 60,000 people to do likewise, we can rebuild that home in Waveland.

If you are reading this article because of a link on Facebook, the effort is working. I’m asking all my friends to spread the word and I’m asking you to do the same.

When you send your donation, please mention my name. I’m hoping we raise more than $60,000, but I’d like the first $60,000 to go to rebuild the home I helped take apart.


Life’s a Beach

February 16, 2010

Edisto Island Beach

I’ve been going to the beach ever since I was a toddler. Because my father was raised in South Jersey and we had relatives living in Linwood and Somers Point, my family vacationed near the beach every year.

We never stayed at the beach; that would’ve been too expensive. We would rent a small apartment or stay on my uncle’s cabin cruiser (also small) a few miles in from the shore. Most of our time was spent fishing and crabbing in the inland bays and marshes. Once or twice during our stay we’d go into Atlantic City or Ocean City to spend some time on the beach or stroll along the boardwalk.

Fishing and crabbing with nephews and nieces

I recall one vacation when my parents did something different. I believe it was 1955 or 1956. Instead of going to South Jersey, we went to Cambridge, Maryland and rented a cottage along the Choptank River. We arrived shortly after a hurricane had passed through. Not only was the river running fast and deep, many of the surrounding fields were still draining. We saw a number of people holding chicken wire at the end of irrigation ditches. They were catching some very large fish that had been driven inland by the storm surge.

On that particular trip, the beach wasn’t quite as convenient. But on one of our days in Maryland, we drove over to Ocean City, Maryland and enjoyed their beach and boardwalk.

I have been to beaches all up and down the East Coast, Mississippi, Texas, California, and Oregon. I’ve also visited Brighton Beach in England and some beaches in Puerto Rico and Mexico. They all speak the same language as they invite us to either walk along the water’s edge or sit down and watch the waves rolling in.

Without even closing my eyes, I can hear the sound of the surf, the wind, and the sea gulls.

I’ve often thought about living closer to a beach. I wouldn’t want to own a home on the beach. Hurricanes might not hit a particular beach that often, but once would be more than enough for me. I’d like to live about twenty miles inland so it would be an easy trip to get close to the ocean.

However, with most of our children and grandchildren living within thirty miles of us, I’d find it difficult to move anywhere.

Perhaps we could win the lottery. Then we could move the entire extended family.

My bride and I on Tybee Island

I have been to the beach so many times in my life that I consider it a God given blessing and wish everyone – especially children – could visit a beach on a regular basis.

Twice we were able to stay at rental properties right on the beach. Once was in Ocean City, New Jersey and the other was on Edisto Island. My bride and I rented the place in New Jersey at the end of the summer season (reduced rates) and my nephews and nieces chipped in. On Edisto Island, we were fortunate to be the guests of John and Debbe Mize. That was in November a couple of years back.

Based on those two experiences, I’d say the best time to go to the beach is after Labor Day and before June. The temperatures are much milder and there are no crowds.

We’re hoping to get to at least one beach in 2010, but I think I’m already there mentally.