With the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaching, many folks may think the recovery effort is complete. There is still much to do, though, as a group called "Helping Hands" knows all too well.
Since the Katrina disaster in 2005, Paul Gentry, president of Old Timer Log Homes & Supply, Inc., has visited the Gulf Coast several times. It has had such a profound impact on him that a group effort with local churches in the Middle Tennessee area has created a non-profit organization called "Helping Hands."
With the primary focus on New Orleans, Paul felt that there were so many not receiving the aid and assistance needed. His attention turned to the smaller communities in Mississippi. What started with one or two individuals collecting food and clothing to take to the devastated area has turned into a major effort, and Pearlington, Mississippi is reaping the rewards.
Before Hurricane Katrina approximately 2,000 people called Pearlington "home," but now only about 800 individuals are left.
The small community of Pearlington is nicknamed "The Forgotten City." It was not identified on the FEMA maps and stood covered in 10 feet of water for eight hours. No one had ever seen this much water and this much devastation.
With less than half of the population left in the community today, many are still living in small FEMA trailers; 60 to 70 percent of the housing is still uninhabitable. With very little insurance money, much help is needed.
Because of the efforts of many "Helping Hands" volunteers, four families in Pearlington are now living in their homes. Roofs are repaired, drywall is hung, doors and windows are in place and spirits are lifted. The appreciation of these families is immeasurable.
In addition to this work, Old Timer Log Homes and Supply supplied a log package to construct a church building. Gentry underwent deep brain surgery for Parkinson’s disease in March. Four weeks following the surgery, Paul was once again headed to Pearlington to lead the volunteers in erecting the log structure.
With 75 percent of the building now complete, volunteers are working to finish whatever is needed. The structurally sound log building will provide a place of refuge when future Gulf Coast storms threaten the community. Construction should be completed within a few weeks at this writing in June, 2007.
There is much left to do and "Helping Hands" will continue its work in "The Forgotten City." For more information on this non-profit organization, contact Paul Gentry at (800) 467-3006.