WAVELAND, Miss. — In this community which took the brunt of Hurricane Katrina in September, and where the homes of an estimated 12,000-15,000 people were destroyed, volunteers are helping to make a difference.
Bishop Robert P. Garrett of the Waveland Ward said that some 100 members have returned, and although they are living in temporary quarters, they are interested in rebuilding. He said telephone service is slowly coming back, though life is not back to normal.
A retired Naval meteorologist, he said the effort to continue has been difficult.
"We just keep floating; that's the Navy way," he said.
President William Sowers, first counselor in the Gulfport Mississippi Stake, said that offers of help continue to come, especially to help with Christmas gifts.
However, he said, when people ship containers of toys or clothing, it creates a storage and distribution problem for leaders already overloaded with responsibilities.
Rather, he suggested that people who want to make donations beyond those contributed through the LDS Humanitarian Center might want to donate gift cards redeemable at the large home supply stores, or discount department stores. Those who lost homes and property need to be able to make their own choices about what they need. "People might want to buy a new washing machine," he said. "And people like to buy their own clothing."
He said Church meetinghouses in Pascagoula and Waveland, which were flooded by the storm surge, are stripped to concrete and studs and awaiting contractors to refurbish, but the remainder of the stake facilities are back to normal.
Among the many helpers in Waveland and other nearby coastal areas is the Morrell Foundation of Salt Lake City, Utah. It was founded by Phillip L. Morrell, a retired contractor and philanthropist of Salt Lake City. With the cooperation of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, this foundation has erected a village of temporary buildings near Waveland, and plans additional temporary structures in other disaster sites.
Merrill Osmond, president of the foundation, said the village, which they call the iCare Village, can house almost 300 people in a main, 10,000-square-feet structure. This structure has about 44 dorm rooms with six cots in each. It also has bathroom, laundry, and shower facilities. Another 60 military tents are able to provide the same amenities for six people each are being erected. A medical clinic, a supply tent and a 10,000-square-foot community center — called the civic tent — are also part of the village. Many of those housed are faith-based volunteers. Among them are Baptist, Catholic, Adventist, International Aid, Mercy Ship and Mercy Corps volunteers.
"The Morrell Foundation hopes to build iCare Villages across the coast," said Brother Osmond. "We have four different sites the governor made available for us."
He said the governor's wife, Marsha, has used the Waveland community center several times, holding such events as Kids Day, Christmas on the Beach, and a baby shower for all the new mothers.
"We wanted a place for people to come, out of the disaster and to unwind and find emotional healing," said Foundation Chairman Morrell.
The Morrell Foundation, which has a staff of 12 at the site, expects to maintain the buildings for at least two years as people rebuild their homes. Those interested in contacting or supporting the foundation may find it at morrellfoundation.org.