March 12, 2007

A new home for Camp Katrina

Not just in word, but in deed, DC helps Katrina victims, again

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Once again, Dassel Cokato volunteers are finding personal ways to make things better for Hurricane Katrina victims; this time by helping to remodel the new volunteer center in Waveland, Miss, called Camp Katrina.

In the past, Camp Katrina housed DC volunteers who went on previous trips to Waveland. These trips are still ongoing, and the next group is expected to leave Saturday, March 24.

In the past, the camp operated out of what used to be a NAPA store before the Hurricane Katrina hit August 2005.

Thanks to volunteers, there is a new building now, which offers the conveniences of in-house plumbing, climate controls and other such luxuries.

“This a big, big improvement,” said Al Nagel, Minnesota Katrina Relief volunteer coordinator.

Camp Katrina’s history

Camp Katrina has come a long way since its creation in a Kmart parking lot in Waveland, Miss. just days after the hurricane hit the coast. At that time, the camp was feeding 5,000 people, according to Al Nagel, coordinator for Minnesota Katrina Relief.

With Kmart rebuilding, the camp needed to find a new home. At that time, a NAPA store building was available for rent just down the road.

The NAPA store, which was basically a blue pole shed, is what Camp Katrina and Christian Life Center has made its home for the past year-and-a-half, housing hundreds of volunteers a month from all over the country.

Now, Christian Life Center was able to purchase a different building better equipped for its needs. Since the new building had been submersed in water from the storm, it needed to be gutted and rebuilt, according to Nagel.

Volunteers from the Dassel-Cokato community volunteered their time and talents for the building’s completion.

Gary Plowman of Cokato helped install electricity and lighting, Russ Irvin of Cokato installed carpet, Harley Wilson also of Cokato, helped with Sheetrocking and taping, Dennis Johnson of Dassel installed kitchen cabinets and cupboards, and John Hannus, a former resident of DC installed the plumbing.

The new camp, unlike the previous camp, is climate controlled, carpeted, and has indoor restrooms unlike the previous building which had outhouses and no insulation.

But like so many other stories heard at Camp Katrina, this too has shown the work of God.

“It was amazing to hear how the Lord provided for this camp,” Nagel said.

With the camp being remodeled completely by volunteers, a plumber was needed to complete the job.

Unfortunately, the assembled volunteers didn’t have the proper plumbing skills, according to Nagel.

Pastor Art, the camp’s minister, prayed about it, and that afternoon, in walked a volunteer who just so happened to be a plumber, Nagel said.

“Who says God doesn’t answer prayers?” Nagel said.

Katrina relief work

Although there has been “huge progress” in the area of clean-up, it will take years before the job is fully complete, according to Nagel.

“The progress has been in getting the debris out. Now, it’s the rebuilding process,” he said.

With media shifting its focus, people may get the idea the work is complete, Nagel said.

“But with 866,000 homes affected by the storm, you can’t rebuild them in one year,” he added.

The majority of residents are still living in FEMA trailers. “Some refer to them as coffins, because after so long, they start to feel like one,” Nagel said.

On a more positive note, residents of Mississippi say, if it wasn’t for the church, they don’t know where they would be, according to Nagel.

Another comment Nagel has heard from the residents is, it is one thing to send money, but what they really need are hands and feet to get the job done, he said.

The next trip leaving from DC is Saturday, March 17, which is currently full. After that, trips are planned for Saturday, March 24 through Sunday, April 1 and Saturday, April 28 through Sunday, May 6.

But the trips don’t stop there. “Teachers have asked to schedule a time for them to go,” he said. The teachers will have an opportunity to volunteer for the “Teacher Trip,” Saturday, June 23 through Sunday, July 1.

When asked why Nagel still continues to schedule trips and encourage volunteers, he said, “I feel this is something God has called me to do.”

“We live in a world consumed of our own interests; those interests have temporary rewards,” Nagel said. “This allows people to get out of the box and see just how rewarding it is to serve others. They will then have a greater desire to come home and serve in their own community, because there are plenty of needs here as well,” he said.

“These trips are really about changing lives, both for those who live there, and for those who serve there,” he said.

For more information, contact Al Nagel at (320) 275-7621 or by cell phone (320) 296-1521.

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