BYLINE: By Greg Munno Staff writer
LENGTH: 481 words
DATELINE: Long Beach, Miss.
When 6-year-old Kristian Deloach found a toy microphone Tuesday in the boxes of donated goods at New Life Church, she broke into a wide grin.
“I’m going to be a singer,” she announced.
Her grandmother, Mary Deloach, celebrated the moment.
“It is good to see them having fun after a tough few weeks,” she said. “Their home was completely destroyed and they have been living with me.”
Bringing joy to people like the Deloaches is what brought a group of 38 Central New Yorkers to New Life Church, said the Rev. Joseph Coudriet, who is leading the mission for Abundant Life Christian Center in Cicero. “We want to provide critical assistance to people, but it is also simply about showing people we care,” he said.
The volunteers from Abundant Life have been working at the New Life site and several others in this devastated coastal area. They brought clothes, tents, generators and other supplies to donate, and have been helping organize and distribute the crush of donations flowing in from other parts of the country.
Tuesday, the Central New Yorkers staffed the New Life Church donation center and helped repair the church’s roof. They staffed another center at a Baptist church in Gulfport. They cleaned the rotted carpet out of a woman’s home. And they used chainsaws to clear debris for strangers who had randomly asked for their help.
They also laid the groundwork for a full day of work today at multiple locations throughout southern Mississippi.
Large numbers of children came with their parents to the two centers, where the Abundant Life volunteers helped about 400 people.
At People’s Baptist Missionary Church in a poor section of Gulfport, 10-year-old Jameela Idom found a pink shirt she really liked while her grandmother got cleaning supplies for the family.
Jameela’s room appeared to have only a little water damage when her family first returned after the storm, her grandmother, Bura Idom, said. But water was actually trapped above the ceiling, and when the ceiling gave way, it destroyed the room and everything in it.
Jameela is now sharing a room at her grandmother’s with her 9-year-old brother, which doesn’t make her happy.
“He’s freaky,” she said with a grimace.
The People’s Baptist relief center was being organized and run Tuesday largely by Abundant Life volunteers, who had also set up a large tent on the property Monday. The volunteer stuck with outside duty was Dave Ravas, of Liverpool, who was constantly stacking boxes, greeting newcomers and helping people get supplies to their cars.
The temperature hit 99 degrees in Gulfport, according to the National Weather Service, and the humidity made it feel well over 100.
But Ravas smiled at everyone and worked without breaks.
“What I do is just not think about it at all,” Ravas said. “That’s the advice I give my kids, ‘just do what needs to be done and don’t think about the hardship.’ It makes it a lot easier.”