Amish and Mennonite volunteers may return to help build homes

Published 6:06 pm Friday, December 18, 2009

The Amish and Mennonite volunteers who generated much goodwill here after Katrina, might be returning to the county in the near future to help residents, if a local charitable group can get its project together and off the ground.

A representative of a charitable group that repairs and builds homes for Katrina victims told supervisors on Monday the organization has applied for a half-million-dollar grant through the Mississippi Development Authority and supervisors were asked to waive county building permit fees to help the project.

Supervisors took the request under advisement and said they will make a decision on it later.

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Art Crocker, project coordinator for “Rebuilding Pearl River County Together,” told supervisors in a letter that his group was “looking to receive confirmation for this grant within the next couple of weeks.”

He said the grant would cover approximately 14 clients who need new houses and several others who need assistance with the completion of home repairs. He said the majority of the new homes, which are small, 750 square foot projects, would be constructed in the county with only a few being constructed inside the city limits of Picayune.

He said the group also would ask the Picayune City Council to waive permit fees, too.

Crocker said “Rebuilding” is an umbrella group associated with Manna Ministries of Resurrection Life Church in Picayune and another charitable organization, the Life Resource Center.

He said the group was formed after Katrina to assist residents recovering from the storm. He said the organization is targeting residents still living in FEMA trailers and that clients, once identified, go through a “case management process to determine whether or not they qualify for financial assistance.”

He said shortly after Katrina government agencies provided money for labor, too, but now the funds cover only materials and durables, and that the group has to look for volunteer labor on the current planned projects.

Crocker said his group is expecting volunteer help from Christian Aid Ministries, an Amish and Mennonite volunteer group, that was active in Pearl River County shortly after Katrina, and which generated a lot of goodwill.

He said they have work crews that are scheduled to arrive here in the first part of January to help with repairs and construction.

Crocker said funds are slowly drying up for work associated with the Katrina rebuilding.

“If you would be so gracious to waive all permit fees for us, we would be able to have things in place for the volunteers to begin working toward helping our county to continue the recovery process, which is still a great need. Without the waiver, we would not be able to accommodate these needs at this time,” Crocker told supervisors in the letter.

He added, “Time is running short for our Long Term Recovery Organization to do repairs and re-builds due to the closing out of so many programs. Unless some other programs are implemented, this may be the last opportunity we have to help these people at this time”.