Except for the clothes in her suitcase, everything was lost. “I had a nice piece of woodwork that I tried to save. I bleached it and bleached it, but every couple of days, mold would grow on it again. So, I finally had to throw it out.”
Dawn began to rebuild her life from scratch. “It was hard,” she remembers, “especially in the beginning. There was no electricity, and cell phones didn’t work very well. You could call out, but people couldn’t call in.”
The Hancock County school where she had been working as a teaching assistant was temporarily used as a shelter for residents. After a month and a half, she was able to return to work.
Those days are getting harder and harder to remember, thanks to days like today. Bright and early Monday morning, more than thirty volunteers from around the country began working with Dawn on her new Habitat house in Diamondhead, Mississippi.
They’re part of a larger force of three hundred volunteers that have come this week to build ten homes in this community during Habitat for Humanity’s 25th annual Carter Work Project.
“I’m so excited,” Dawn exclaims. “We’ve been moving really fast!” With walls, paneling and roof trusses already in place, workers started to paint the siding that will be attached the following day. “The volunteers are absolutely awesome,” she says through a big grin. “They came from around the country just to work on my house. I’ve even got two people from Ireland working on my house today!”
As a partnering affiliate, Bay-Waveland Area Habitat for Humanity is hosting the volunteers in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi. “We’re pleased to be a part of this effort,” says Wendy McDonald, Executive Director. “Nearly fifty percent of all the homes in our county were destroyed by Katrina. It means a lot to our residents to see Habitat rebuilding in this community.”
With 74 homes begun or completed, the affiliate plans to build many more by the end of the year. “Our progress is made possible by the enthusiastic support we’ve received from residents, businesses, churches, community organizations, individuals, and our friends at the Red Cross and The Salvation Army. I can’t imagine where we’d be without them.”
Dawn laughs as she holds up two pieces of a broken hammer in her hand. “I guess I got carried away and was hammering too hard,” she says. It’s hard not to get carried away by the energy and enthusiasm of this build. With a visit from former president Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalyn Carter scheduled for Thursday, there’s a lot of work remaining to be done. And yet, at this rate, they should be more than ready. (5/2008)