By Kristen Miller
DASSEL-COKATO,MN - Minnesota Disaster Relief is once again looking for volunteers to head down to Waveland, MS Friday, March 6 for the continued cleanup efforts from Hurricane Katrina.
“The job isn’t finished,” said Minnesota Disaster Relief Director Al Nagel.
“According to the mayor [of Waveland], it will be another eight years,” Nagel said.
A bus full of volunteers leaving last Friday for Waveland, shows there is still interest in helping the people there.
One may wonder why Minnesota Disaster Relief still takes volunteers to Waveland?
“Just because it’s not on the TV doesn’t mean we’ve completed the job,” Nagel said.
The mission of Cokato-based Minnesota Disaster Relief is “to offer aid and assistance to those people affected by the devastation from recent natural disasters and to bring hope through restoring homes and by sharing true hope through Jesus Christ.”
“We really see there is a need there,” he said.
“We started this project and we’re not going to quit in the middle. We’re trying to see it through,” Nagel commented.
Four years after Hurricane Katrina, people may have the misconception that the work is complete, Nagel said.
“Unfortunately, in many cases, people think it’s all been cleaned up the debris is cleaned up, but the rebuilding has a long way to go,” he added.
There are approximately six housing projects the Christian Life Center (the base camp for Minnesota Katrina Relief volunteers in Waveland) is currently working on.
One project is the home of a Waveland couple who have no funds to finish repairing it.
The center is helping to raise funds for materials including a new roof, insulation, drywall, doors, flooring, cabinets, light fixtures, decking materials, septic system, and air conditioning and heating system.
John Rohrmayer, construction manager for the Waveland-based relief ministry, says there are lots of projects like this, and he is anticipating more to come in March.
“We’ve got more jobs than people realize,” Rohrmayer said.
In 2008, three years after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, the camp was expected to complete 60 home projects by the end of the year, according to Rohrmayer.
The actual number of homes completed in 2008 was 108, far exceeding the camp’s expectations.
“God blessed us by giving us the volunteers to go beyond what we thought we could do,” Rohrmayer said.
The work list continues
Currently, there are 223 families still on the camp’s project list that are “still pretty much homeless,” Rohrmayer said.
Of that list, 110 of the families have some funds for the projects needed to get done, while 113 are still waiting for grant funding for building materials, Rohrmayer explained.
In March, Rohrmayer expects that list to lengthen as people in leased Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) cottages will be homeless.
In 2007, the Federal Emergency Management Agency recalled a number of trailers due to large amounts of formaldehyde found in them. The FEMA trailers were then replaced with MEMA cottages, according to Rohrmayer.
The MEMA cottages were only leased out for two years, which expires in March, according to Rohrmayer.
Because of this recall, Rohrmayer expects about 500 families between Waveland and neighboring Bay St. Louis to be without homes.
Despite their knowledge of the two-year lease, many residents are still waiting for funding.
“Every family has a different story,” Rohrmayer said.
Aside from residents still waiting for grant money, the unemployment rate has also skyrocketed due to many businesses that were destroyed and are also still waiting for insurance money to rebuild, Rohrmayer explained.
It basically comes down to the insurance companies not being able to pay everyone at the same time, he said.
For those who can’t go
For those who would like to go on a trip with Minnesota Disaster Relief, but can’t make it for the March trip, there will be short weekend trips planned this summer, according to Nagel.
These particular trips will leave on Thursday night and return Sunday.
Such trips in the past included tornado-stricken areas such as Cleveland, MN and flooding in Rushford, MN and Iowa.
Also, those who are unable to go but would like to sponsor someone else to go, may contact Al Nagel at (320) 296-1521.
MN Disaster Relief bus leaves March 6
The Minnesota Disaster Relief will take another bus of volunteers to the Gulf Coast, Friday, March 6. The bus will be leaving from its Cokato headquarters at 5 p.m. and returning Saturday, March 14 in the evening.
The cost is $600 for food, transportation, and lodging. Sponsorships may also be available for those who want to go, but can’t afford the full cost of the trip.
Those interested, can sign up online at www.mndisasterrelief.org/ or call Al Nagel at (320) 296-1521.