Immediately after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, Lorraine Hughes of Calverton and her fellow churchgoers shipped a truck loaded with construction materials and generators to the devastated region.
“Katrina was so devastating that everybody wanted to do something,” Ms. Hughes said.
The next year, they sent themselves.
They’ve been heading back annually ever since.
Ms. Hughes was one of 53 members of the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rocky Point who flew to Alabama last month to rebuild and repair houses for families who lost everything to Katrina.
“The bottom line is it’s six years later and there are still people who can’t live in their homes,” she told the News-Review. “Some of them rent apartments, some live with family, some live in homes that you wouldn’t want to live in.”
Making matters worse, last April’s BP oil spill decimated the shrimping industry there, stripping many locals of their livelihoods and stifling the hard work of families who may have been inching toward recovery, she said.
In this most recent trip, church members split into groups and worked with either Habitat for Humanity or Lutheran Disaster Relief, a collaborative ministry mission group. Volunteers either repaired homes in Bayou La Batre, Ala., a small fishing village, or helped build a house in Mobile, Ala., one of the largest cities in the Gulf region.
The group painted and decorated one house in Bayou La Batre for a family of seven, including five children. Ms. Hughes said the father had worked in the shrimping industry before the oil spill, but is now out of work.
“They’re not a rich people to start with,” Ms. Hughes said of Bayou La Batre residents. “Couple that with the Gulf oil spill, and the shrimpers not working, and there’s no money to get these things done.”
Another home in Bayou La Batre had severe mold issues that had gone unresolved since the hurricane. Church members sheetrocked and reinsulated the house, remedying the issue. The house is now ready for the homeowners to move in.
The group in Mobile working with Habitat for Humanity built a frame for a six-bedroom house, installed roof trusses and sheathed the roof. The next Habitat for Humanity volunteer group will continue the building efforts.
The oldest volunteer in tow was 79.
“It’s a Christian heart that says, ‘What can we do?’” Ms. Hughes said. “This is how we show God’s love.”