I’m back from Mississippi, with special thanks to Michael and Miriam from Virginia.
Doug, Eric, and I drove to Gulfport on Sunday, May 3 to represent Christ the King Lutheran Church at Camp Coast Care – a joint effort of the Lutherans and Episcopalians in Southern Mississippi. The three of us were assigned to work on the framing of a house on the beach. In reality, the home is being built about a hundred and fifty yards from the highway and the beach is on the other side of that highway. But one can see the waters of the Gulf of Mexico from the deck… which is about sixteen feet above the ground.
How the house looked when we left on Friday
The folks who worked on the house during the week are shown below.
The team - minus one member
On Tuesday, Doug received a phone call from his brother. The news was not good. Doug’s ninety year-old father had suffered a heart attack and had been rushed to the hospital. The man was in ICU and the doctors were trying to decide the best course of action.
Eric and I assured Doug we’d be able to find a way back to Georgia. So he drove off to be with his family in Tennessee. Eric and I let it be known that we might have to hitch-hike back home (although we planned to rent a car if all else failed) and within a day Michael and Miriam stepped forward and offered us a ride to Atlanta.
In the meantime, our team continued to work on the house. Our team consisted of a woman from Florida, two young ladies from AmeriCorps, three folks from Virginia, the contingent from Christ the King, our supervisor, and the homeowner.
Since Doug had to leave early, he missed the photo-op.
Without a doubt, I was the most out-of-shape person on the crew, but I think those steps eventually got to all of us. It was bad enough that we had to get ourselves up and down those steps to do any work, but we also had to carry tools and materials up those steps.
On Monday, we began by carrying twenty foot lengths of decking material up those steps. The decking material was what is known as 5/4 X 6 inch lumber. In reality, it is one inch thick and approximately five and a half inches wide. That lumber – the lightest of all that had to go up those steps – became the flooring for what will become a screened in porch.
The material for the roof began with the two inch by twelve inch by twenty feet long plank that formed the center beam. The rafters that were attached to that beam were two inches by eight inches by twenty-two feet long.
Needless to say, by the end of the week, my body was totally worn out. We returned home on Saturday and I think I am finally recovered.
Believe it or not, I’m looking forward to returning to Camp Coast Care and helping with more housing. From what I’ve seen, the camp will be in operation for years to come.
Imagine, if you will, the typical beach front resort. The streets are lined with souvenir shops, kite stores, ice cream parlors, restaurants, soda fountains, bicycle rental places, and other related businesses. There are also numerous motels and rental beach homes.
On a hot day in May (we experienced temperatures close to 90 degrees all week long), you’d expect to see lots of people on the beach. You might also see a few people flying kites or wind surfing. May is rather early in the season for some beaches, but on the Gulf coast, many of these activities go on all year long.
Now, that you’ve imagined the typical beach resort, let me tell you what we saw.
Over a stretch of more than five miles, we saw one seafood restaurant/bar and three Waffle Houses. (Because of the shape of the typical Waffle House and its brick construction, those building survived Katrina. They were severely damaged, but were much more easily refurbished and reopened than the structures that were leveled by the storm.)
There were no motels, no beach front rental homes, no souvenir shops, no ice cream parlors, no T-shirt shops, and no kite stores. In fact, there were no buildings. I was shown a parking lot that once sat in front of a Wal-Mart, but the store had been totally washed away.
We saw one person (not counting our AmeriCorps youths) on the beach. No one was flying kites; no one was swimming; no one was doing anything to enjoy the sand, sun, and waves. It was like a ghost town.
It appears this will not change for some time to come. Commercial enterprises are staying away because there is no customer base. People are staying away because there are no jobs or shopping facilities.
I forgot to mention that there was one gas station/convenience store near the one marina.
If there is any way for you to help this community that is trying desparately to help itself, please do so. Maybe I’ll run into you at Camp Coast Care sometime in the future.