Summer In Pearlington

June 18, 2007

Summer has arrived in Pearlington.  It is 21 months post Katrina. This has become a busy place.  There are 40 homes currently in progress – all at different stages.  This week there are 270 people staying at the Pearlington Hilton, a.k.a. The Pearlington Recovery Center.   The most noticeable change is in the temperatures which are intense.  The air seems to be thick enough to cut with a knife.  It is an oppressive heat that seems to lie on your chest and make it difficult to breathe.  No winds to help cool one down.   The trees are beginning to recover and leaf out – at least those that were not killed by all the salt water!  There are many shades of green and the hibiscus is in bloom.  It is starting to look alive again.  There are still many trees that need to be cut down and the conservation corp. is in town – their specialty is removing dead trees. With the changing of the season, also came some major changes at the PRC.  All of the buildings used to house the volunteers now have bunk beds with real mattresses.  The mattresses are about 1 inch thick – but much nicer than the thin pads that were here the last time I was here.  Also it is so nice to have a “real” bed in lieu of the fold up cots that generally collapsed at night!  This has doubled the amount of volunteers that they can accommodate now.   There is also a new mess tent – it is still an army tent, but in a different location and has a trailer attached that houses the kitchen and supplies.  This is a huge improvement over one tent that housed both the kitchen and served as the dining hall as well.  Many more people can be served at the same time now.  Miss Jonnie is now cooking at the PRC.  Imagine my surprise when I saw her walking towards the office about lunch time.  After giving her a big hug, I asked here who was cooking at the Church?  I was confused since she has always been cooking at the First Missionary Baptist Church.  Her answer – “I am now cooking here at the center since they didn’t have anyone to cook here.  Miss Dotty is cooking at the church.”  She cooks lunch and dinner at the PRC.  She is a wonderful cook and her meals fill you up!  So now you have a choice as to where to eat lunch – both places serve wonderful southern food.  We ate at both! With the intense temperatures and humidity, all the teams are now taking a break from 11 Am until 2 PM.  Bob said that there had been too many folks struggling with the heat and that the decision was made to slow the pace down.  Work still gets down and it is amazing how much does get done, even with a 3 hour break.  Water is essential during this time.  Bottled water is everywhere and one needs to drink plenty of it to stay hydrated. 

Bob, the Volunteer coordinator, has put together a great program for the youth groups that come through.  He tries put a skilled tradesmen with the groups to give them training in the skills required for building the houses.  There were teams framing, building stairs, putting up decks, etc.  Each of these teams had someone with the skills necessary to train them and to answer questions.  Generally the leaders of the group are trained and they in turn train the kids that are with them.  Once they have the training, it is impressive to see what they can accomplish during the week that they are there.

Now the startling reality of the numbers.  In Hancock County, which is the county that Pearlington is in, there are requests to help with 750 homes.  If you take the entire gulf coast from Louisiana to the border of Mississippi-Alabama, there are requests for 78,000 homes. These requests have come from those who were either under insured or had no insurance at the time Hurricane Katrina hit and therefore have little financial help available to them to help with the rebuilding.  Imagine living in a small FEMA trailer for 21 months with no potable water – that means that bottled water is used for everything, including brushing your teeth! At least with the FEMA trailer you get a toilet that flushes in lieu of a port-a-potty!   Life has been challenging for the folks in this area.  But the overall attitude is one of thankfulness and patience.  Thankfulness that they came through the storm with their lives and for all the strangers that have come to help.  Patience in waiting and not demanding that things be done yesterday.  What a joy to see the servant hearts here.      

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