Overview – Day 4

Volunteers celebrate mid-week progress

After a Wednesday spent putting on shingles, nailing up siding and installing attic insulation, volunteers at this year’s host site headed toward a Block Party Celebration in Pascagoula. Meanwhile, volunteers at participating affiliates throughout the Gulf Coast marked progress with celebrations of their own, including a Crawfish Boil in Picayune, Miss.
Overview – Day 4 -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

The Gulf provides a hot day, but volunteers keep up a feverish pace

Warmer temperatures arrived along the Gulf Coast on Wednesday, but that didn’t prevent volunteers from getting their work done. And it didn’t keep them from celebrating their successes, either.

After some volunteers in Biloxi stayed at their work sites until 6 or 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday evening, they made sure to leave early enough Wednesday to take part in the Pascagoula Block Party. Volunteers at other participating affiliates hosted their own celebrations.

Biloxi and Pascagoula: Working in the heat

The houses got dressed Wednesday. In Biloxi, crews worked to get roofs shingled in the morning and siding up on the house in the afternoon. Throughout the day, hotbox crews also worked in cramped, hot attics to install insulation, while others stooped under the foundation below to put in insulation there.

Kosta Vlahos, 66, split his morning between handing up insulation to volunteers doing the attic, and crimping vinyl siding. A recently retired state circuit judge, Vlahos said this was an opportunity for him to give back. “I’ve lived around here my whole life,” he said. “I believe in Habitat and I’m glad to see they’re keeping an emphasis down here.”

At the Framing Frenzy, volunteers exceeded their goal for the first time this week, marking their 13th house frame completed for the day. Crews there are framing a dozen houses a day through Thursday. And over in Pascagoula, volunteers could see evidence of their progress even before breaking for lunch. Fifteen houses were already being shingled, with drywall going in before noon.

Slidell, La., and Picayune, Miss.: Double-duty

The East St. Tammany community is catching the Carter Work Project “fever.” Many local vendors who have worked on the previous 71 post-Katrina houses are stepping up to help build 10 houses this week with the local affiliate. Stock Building Supplies — the supplier for wood products — sent staff members to the job sites to volunteer. Coastal Waste Management — the supplier for dumpsters — called in unexpectedly and offered to host a celebratory barbecue Friday to acknowledge the volunteers’ contributions. Twenty-three students from the local Paul Mitchell School of Cosmetology happened to read about the weeklong event and arrived unannounced to join the efforts.

And after volunteers worked all day to help frame houses in Slidell, they traveled about 15 miles to Picayune, Miss. They made the trip in order to buy their supper at a crawfish boil, a fund-raising event for Pearl River County Habitat for Humanity.

The event attracted a great deal of interest from the community and enticed several local people to help with the two houses begun this week. “The Pearl River community has been great,” said Donna Fischer, executive director of HFH of Pearl River County, noting that the drywall, plumbing and wiring had been donated for the project.

Houston, Texas: The collegiate touch

In Houston, nine women’s softball teams pitched in to begin work on five houses with Houston Habitat for Humanity. Golfers and lacrosse and tennis players will be joining in as well to help complete another six homes this week in conjunction with the NCAA Division II National Championships Festival in Houston. Four other houses will be framed for local volunteers to complete.

All told, more than 600 student-athletes competing in NCAA championships this week in Houston are framing and building houses around their competition and practice schedules. “It was a great opportunity for our players,” said Associate Athletic Director Peter Campbell of Lock Haven (Pa.) University. “They really seemed to be enjoying themselves, while realizing that they were helping real people in real-life situations in their attempt to get out of the difficult position they are in.”

In surveying the progress Wednesday morning, Ellen Efsic, director of development and communications for Houston HFH, said it was pretty remarkable to see how much work had been done. “This is how we do it in Texas,” she said.

Lucedale, Miss.: ‘Faster than ever’

In locations where there are no out-of-town volunteers for the Carter Work Project and where volunteers do everything, as in George County, Miss., the local community has stepped up to make things happen. Members of George County Habitat for Humanity’s board of directors and homeowner family members are working on a house that is going up “faster than we have ever done it done before,” said Harrell Moore, board member. The family should be able to move in within four or five weeks.

Lafayette, La.: A ‘phenomenal’ response

It seems like the whole town of Kaplan, La., has gotten involved with a four-week blitz build in Vermilion Parish. Led by energetic Mayor Linda Hardee, who has now joined the Lafayette Habitat for Humanity board of directors, various groups have donated breakfast and lunch for 15 to 60 people, five days a week for four weeks.

Volunteers have included Baptist World Alliance teams, who have come from all over the United States and Canada, and local inmate teams supervised by the sheriff’s department.

At a celebration ceremony on Saturday, six homes will be blessed, and the affiliate will kick off construction on another half-dozen houses. Julie Justus of Baptist World Aid will present Bibles to the families moving into their homes. “This is the first large project we have done in Vermilion Parish,” said Melinda Taylor, executive director of Lafayette HFH. “The community has been phenomenal.”

—Reporting by Phillip Jordan and Pam Campbell