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Company happy to loan workers

A lumber company with a small presence on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is making a big impact on recovery efforts.

Weyerhauser has helped in a number of ways in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Efforts have included creating an employee-employer match fundraising program to help those in Mississippi and Louisiana, an adopt-a-family program and donating $500,000 to the American Red Cross.

The company, which has just 19 Mississippi employees, took its charity a step farther. The company is offering to pay the salary and transportation of any employee who wants to travel to the coast to help the rebuilding effort.

Employees can volunteer through Baptist Builders, an organization based at the former National Guard Armory in Gulfport. Stays last two weeks to a month.

More than 300 people have taken the company up on the opportunity. They have logged more than 40,000 hours of volunteer time repairing and rebuilding the houses of Weyerhaeuser employees and retirees, as well as others in the community.

“I have skills I can put to use and wanted to see what I could do to help,” said Scott Wagner of Denver, who volunteered for the whole month of August.

In addition to the manpower, the company donated building materials for the rebuilding efforts of employees and retirees. The company also gave $50,000 to Baptist Builders.

“It was an easy decision to make to help the people of Mississippi and Louisiana, because we’re only as strong as the people in our communities,” company officer Ernesta Ballard said. “We can’t be successful unless we have the citizenship nailed.”A federal judge presiding over most of the insurance lawsuits spawned by Hurricane Katrina is soliciting advice on the best way to resolve hundreds of cases in a “just, speedy and inexpensive” manner.