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Some of the Brewton-Parker College Baptist Student Union students who traveled to the Pascagoula, Miss., area to assist in Hurricane Katrina cleanup work during the first week in January were: (front row, from left) Bethany New, Chris Mitchell, Jeff Tinsley, Joannie Morgan, Jamie Meador, Courtney Payne, contractor "Uncle Bernie" from Indiana, (second row) Jennifer Vaughn, Kate Gazaway of Toccoa Falls College, Chris Elkins, BSU director Glenn Wallace, Justin McCalla, Jana Bailey, (third row) Kara Mixon, Jordan Cain, (back row) Allen Rea, Joseph Penton, Lisa Vincent and Steven Dresen. Other students who went but not pictured included: Celia Cocke, Michael Crosby, Andrea Gaston, Timothy Hegerich, Whitney Johnson, Crystal Maddox, Erin Bower and Omie LeAnn Scott. (Photo provided by Jana Bailey)
Hurricane damage, families leave impressions
on Brewton-Parker BSU students
By Terry Gaston
BPC Public Relations
Hurricane-ravaged residents of Fort Ogden, Fla., found out in January and March 2005 how hard Brewton-Parker College students are willing to work in order to better their situations following Hurricane Charley in August 2004.
During the first week of January before Brewton-Parker began its spring semester, residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast area who lost much or all of their belongings to Hurricane Katrina in August met a hard-working crew of BPC students who again was ready to do anything to help improve the lives of those in need.
Glenn Wallace, campus minister and Baptist Student Union director at Brewton-Parker, and 25 students ventured to the Pascagoula, Miss., area via a six-vehicle caravan and spent five days as guests of First Baptist Church Orange Grove in Moss Point, Miss.
In November, Wallace and three students joined about 12 members of First Baptist Church in Waynesboro and traveled to Orange Grove, on the north edge of Moss Point, to help serve Thanksgiving dinner to area residents still recovering from Katrina.
As a result of that trip, Wallace made arrangements with Mike Rowell, pastor of FBC Orange Grove, to bring the larger group. Wallace said the group’s work ethic caught Rowell off guard.
“It was a small church, and we took almost as many students as they have members, so the pastor became a little overwhelmed by the amount of work that college students could accomplish,” Wallace said. “Several of the jobs he had for us, we were able to accomplish in half the time he expected. Some of the work he had planned, other people had already done.”
So Wallace and Rowell went to the Jackson Baptist Association and asked how it could utilize the students. The association took 15 students and 10 stayed with the church group, which also had a group of eight from North Carolina.
Wallace said Pascagoula was not hit as hard as its western neighbors in Biloxi and Gulfport, with 30 feet of flooding going inland as far as 3 miles.
“The thing that hit me about the storm was that it had no classification: middle-class homes, upper-class homes, destroyed,” Wallace said. “Whoever, whatever was in its path. You could drive inland 15 blocks and everything is destroyed. It looks like the hurricane dropped a bomb of water on them.”
Many residents who had been through the deadly Hurricane Camille in 1969 decided to ride out Katrina. “One man said Camille was a wind storm and this was a water storm,” Wallace said. “And since it was a water storm, insurance companies don’t cover that (on basic home policies).”
The Brewton-Parker delegation stayed at Temple Baptist Church outside of Pascagoula, and First Baptist Church of Pascagoula fed the group all week, as it has many mission groups, Wallace said.
“We mostly went to houses that weren’t completely gutted,” said Jana Bailey, a Brewton-Parker freshman from Folkston making her first mission trip. “We cleaned yards, and in some places we put in new insulation and put up new sheet rock. It just depended on what stage a house was at.”
Bailey spoke of a contractor from Indiana who they called “Uncle Bernie,” who has worked with different groups through the Jackson Association for the past six months. “His saying all week was, ‘Just do it and walk away,’ not to worry about neatness,” she said.
Bailey said her toughest memory of the area will be that of the first house they visited, where a family that had three mentally retarded children ages 20 to 24 had lived and been displaced to a Federal Emergency Management Administration trailer.
“We opened the walls and bugs and spiders just went everywhere,” Bailey said. “The smell was horrible.”
“They were the epitomé of the poor, rural Mississippi family,” Wallace added. “We tore through the floor and you could just see the ground.”
Omie LeAnn Scott, a junior from Fitzgerald, spoke of a happier situation as part of the same group as Bailey.
“A group had gone to a lady’s house they day before and didn’t finish, so when we came she said, ‘I thought you’d be too busy,’” said Scott, who had been on one of the trips to Fort Ogden.
“People would look at her house and not help, mostly insurance people, but we broke up the tile in her kitchen and wrapped up her breakables. She was happy and surprised and said we could come back any time.”
The entire group spent their final two days at the home of a couple with a toddler and a baby soon coming, and Scott said they had suffered water 23 inches high in their house.
“It was almost gutted, but we took out tile, tubs, sinks, nails and put in insulation,” she said. “Then we looked over across the street and saw a couple who were raking leaves in their yard and said they had finished their rebuilding. They said, ‘We haven’t taken a day off.’
“They opened their house to us if we need to wash our hands or get a drink,” said Scott, adding that the couple had evacuated for Camille but stayed to ride out Katrina. “On the last day it was cold, and she offered to make hot chocolate, and we were going back to get our lunch and she said, ‘You can bring it over here.’ We went trying to help everyone else and they were helping us.”
The students worked from 7 or 8 a.m. until about 5 p.m. and stayed busy in the evenings with worship services on two evenings and rest time other nights. They enjoyed a concert by the African Children’s Choir one evening.
In all, the Brewton-Parker students were able to offer aid to 11 families in need. And if the experience had a downside, it was that it was over.
“For the families we worked for, I think we accomplished quite a bit, and they made us feel like we did,” Wallace said. “They were very appreciative. But in the larger scheme of things, when you look at everything as a whole, you feel like you made just a small dent.”
“The people were so grateful that we were there to do whatever they needed us to do,” Bailey said.
“It doesn’t look like you did anything,” Scott said, “but you know you put something in their hearts.”
Since so much is left to do, another BSU team from Brewton-Parker will return to the Gulf Coast in March during spring break.
“Some of them are kind of depressed,” Scott said of the residents. “But most of the people said, ‘We have hope, we just have to push on.’”