Katrina damaged home demolished three years later

Published 1:21 am Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It only took three years and some volunteers from up north but one county resident’s Hurricane Katrina damaged home is finally being torn down.

The owner of the north Peal River County home, Arlene Centobie, said she was told she will get a new home sometime after the first one is torn down, but for now she is just happy to see the old one demolished.

Initially she was told she would get a Katrina cottage to replace her condemned home, but when she was told she would not get one, another avenue opened up through the Mississippi Case Management Consortium.

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Centobie’s plight began on Aug. 29, 2005, when Katrina severely damaged her aging home, which was built in the 1930’s. High winds from the storm twisted the home off its foundation and forced it to be condemned. In January of the following year she was given a Federal Emergency Management Agency travel trailer, which she still lives in on her property.

On Sunday, a group of 22 of the 64 volunteers from New York state showed up at Centobie’s home to help her get rid of it. Monday, the volunteers, ranging in age from 8 year-old Charlie Guilan to 74 year-old Lotti Tobler, were busy tearing down the inside and outside of the home. As they did, they were mindful to remove nails from broken boards before burning them. One volunteer could be seen carrying a recovered section of stained glass with great care. Ty West, founder of River Build, said he hopes to have the house demolished by Tuesday.

West said River Build is a collection of members from seven New York Episcopal Churches who have lent their time, money and their church members to helping victims of Katrina. West said this trip is his fifth to the Gulf Coast area since the storm.

“Every time you come down, the work is different. It gets a little more sophisticated,” West said. “The reason we keep coming back is because everybody up north thinks (the area) is fixed.”

He and the other volunteers from New York will be in the Mississippi Gulf Coast region until Jan. 2. These trips are funded by congregation members, said the Rev. Claire Woodley-Aitchison. Those contributions were not only used to send the volunteers down to Mississippi, but also to buy the necessary tools.

The group’s volunteer work is a response to the sights and news reports about recovery in the coastal, but little action appears to be taking place, Woodley-Aitchison said.

A lot of people on the Gulf Coast are getting plenty of help from these volunteers, but Pearl River County has been left out, said Kathleen Johnson of Waveland Citizens Fund, which works with the MCMC. Johnson said she pointed West and his band of 22 volunteers in Centobie’s direction.

“But for me to be in the middle of nowhere and for them to pick me … it’s wonderful,” Centobie said.

Centobie will get a new home built for her in the near future, when more funds have been raised to do the construction, Johnson said.

Before the volunteers leave for New York, they will get to experience something they don’t up north — fireworks. Woodley-Aitchison said the group stopped on the way in and bought some. Where the volunteers live in New York, fireworks are illegal, she said.