National Service and ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ Kick Off Joint Effort to Help Rebuild Hurricane-Ravaged Mississippi Town
WASHINGTON – The Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees the AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America programs, last week kicked off its yearlong collaboration with the ABC television program “Good Morning America" and the Salvation Army to help rebuild the town of Pass Christian, Miss., by removing 355 tons of debris from a residential street located less than a hundred yards from where Hurricane Katrina came on shore in late August.
The storm – which hit the historic Gulf Coast town, located about 15 miles west of Biloxi, with winds of up to 145 miles per hour and a sea surge of nearly 30 feet – destroyed or left unusable nearly 75 percent of residents’ homes and 100 percent of the town’s businesses. In addition, much of the town’s infrastructure – including utilities, fire and police stations, city vehicles, and public works buildings – were destroyed.
To mark the start of the collaborative effort, more than 70 AmeriCorps members – including 30 from AmeriCorps St. Louis, 24 from the Washington State Conservation Corps, and 22 from Denver campus of AmeriCorps*National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) – participated in an intensive daylong cleanup of Seal Avenue. With support of dump trucks and heavy equipment provided by the Mississippi Department of Transportation, the AmeriCorps members removed 55 truckloads of brush and debris – approximately 355 tons’ worth – in less than a day. In addition, a team of AmeriCorps members helped local residents empty their homes of furniture, appliances, clothing, and personal effects that had been destroyed by mud, muck, and water.
“In times of crisis, citizens and volunteers make up the backbone of support for people and communities in need,” said David Eisner, CEO of the Corporation. “It will take many months, if not years, to recover from such a devastating disaster. We applaud 'Good Morning America' for committing to helping rebuild Pass Christian, and we look forward to working with them and with our other partners to help this town, indeed the entire Gulf region, get back on its feet as quickly as possible."
Pass Christian is “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts’ hometown, which prompted the show to focus its efforts there. The Corporation was asked to be a partner because of its expertise in organizing and managing volunteers, its experience with disaster relief, and its proven ability to help people rebuild their homes and lives. Also participating in the rebuilding effort is the Salvation Army, which will help coordinate donations of money, goods, and services.
“These guys are relentless,” said Roberts of the AmeriCorps members during a live broadcast from Pass Christian on September 28. “I can’t tell you the psychological boost that these people have given to my hometown – and they’re going to stay here and continue to do the work here that is so desperately needed.”
For at the next year, participants from all of the Corporation’s programs – AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America – will be involved in the long-term recovery effort in the town, which before the storm had been home to 6,600 people. Over the course of the next several months, national service participants and other community volunteers will help clean out and disinfect residents’ homes, tarp roofs, provide information to townspeople on available resources, tutor and mentor students in afterschool programs, and build and repair housing, among many other activities.
The next immediate project will be helping the Army Corps of Enginees and the Navy Seabees set up office and class space at DeLisle Elementary School, the only remaining public school in Pass Christian. The school, which flooded but did not sustain significant damage, will become the campus for all local schoolchildren in grades K-12. In addition, the team of AmeriCorps members in Pass Christian will be helping to salvage documents, school supplies, and other materials from the former high school, which was flooded and rendered unusuable by the storm.
Throughout the year, the Corporation will document the rebuilding effort on thehttp://www.nationalservice.gov/passchristian website. Photographs from the first project, as well as additional information on the partnership, can be found there as well.
The Corporation for National and Community Service provides opportunities for Americans of all ages and backgrounds to serve their communities and country through three programs: Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America. Together with the USA Freedom Corps, the Corporation is working to build a culture of citizenship, service, and responsibility in America. For more information, visit http://www.nationalservice.gov.