F & M College: Pascagoula Pride

January 7 - 13, 2007

Unlike the previous two trips to Picayune, MS and New Orleans, where we chain-sawed trees and tore down moldy walls, our time spent in Pascagoula was all about community and rebuilding. There is a discernable level of community pride in Pascagoula. Home-owners cherish their homes and care about their city. We can only hope that our work during a short week has a lasting legacy, both from growth out of work done in Mississippi, and the possibility of greater volunteerism here at home.

Andy Gulati - Systems Librarian

A week later, I'm only now realizing that I woke up at 2am for the trip last May. What is it with these painfully early trips! Of course, now I learn that many students stayed up all night. Ben, Paul and Degen. Little Audrey, Steph and a (very serious) Stacy. Lauren, Erin and Heather. Samantha, Ethan and Nick (sort of reminds me of Finch in American Pie). Sam in her "Sophia Loren" sunglasses, behind Erin and Little Audrey who are trying to have a nice chat, despite the glare off my forehead. It's still only 6:30am!!!
Drew and Tara snuggle. The gang waits in the New Orleans airport, while I try to secure the rental vans. Degen is far too chipper, riding shotgun on the van ride to Pascagoula (126 miles!). The I-10 Twin Span Bridge on the way to Mississippi. So, after settling in at St. John's, we had this wild idea to tour the coast, and maybe put our feet in the sand ... of course, that's when the deluge hits ... just glad the downpour didn't happen while we were driving.
Tara, Drew and Stacy find the accommodations at St. John's quite hospitable (of course the cable-TV doesn't hurt). Ethan, that's a LOT of chicken! Sam is easily entertained by an iPod and breakfast cereal. Paul helps the cooks by paring an apple for the salad. Sam is determined to get a good meal, even if it means pain of death! Kevin, Paul, Hans, Little Audrey and Erin patiently wait for dinner.
NICK! is that chicken done?? Dinner line, grateful stomachs. We were SO fortunate to have a few gourmet chefs travel with us - Ethan and Nick spent a fair amount of time perusing epicurean.com, looking for just the right jambalaya and gumbo recipes. Steph and Mandy pose with Annette (our group worked at Annette's house on Monday, then Bill Chamber's -our lead foreman- group took on the work through the balance of the week). Degen is having too much fun with Hayes (pit bull pet at Carl's house ... note: Hayes' feet are off the ground). HAYES, I mean it, give me that toy! Lauren, Olivia, Mandy, and Hayes hang out at pool-side.
Carl Newell had two homes in Pascagoula, one just off the water that was nearly destroyed, and the home on Ingalls & 13th that sustained 1+ foot of water, and needed major work throughout. Carl (contractor by trade) had just sold his home in Virginia when we met him. Cash-strapped, and exhausted, he was now making efforts to rescue his coastal homes. Erin cuts 1x3 for the ceilings. Degen and Hans mount 1x3 for ceiling drywall. Erin guides 1x3 into place. Could it be, were Paul and I separated at birth? What else to do after a day's work, but wait in the kitchen while Ethan and Nick prepare dinner. Slightly creepy trio.
Post-dinner ice cream, with Steve, Drew, Ben and Kevin. Steve digs down deep for leftover jambalaya. Neil charms the Ladies with his southern accent and wit. Still at it! We met Steve Hicks last January in Picayune. His North Carolina church (Little River Baptist?) sent him down to the Gulf to help out. Little did he know he would spend quality time with F&M students. We were SO grateful to have him back for our Pascagoula trip, along with his constantly entertaining sidekick - Neil James. It was blast to have my brother Hans (from Memphis) along. Hans was so valuable, helping Carl decide how to rebuild his home (you know, how much space for the washer, dryer and fold-down ironing board).
Barbie Harkey's 1897 home was only a few blocks off coastal waters. Five feet of water had destroyed the first level. By the time we arrived, they had rebuilt with new framing and drywall, but painting was at a standstill. Like so many home-owners, Barbie had had a year of getting family life back to normal. So much happened in 2006, death of parents and pets, various setbacks, and trying to maintain regular school and working life. Barbie needed a little boost, and we did our best to carefully lay down smooth paint coats of Glacial Mist and Honeydew Melon (background on this webpage). Erin, Little Audrey and Heather prep the front room, to get ready for the final rollers. Spike was so accommodating (name hardly suited his eager-to-please demeanor). Barbie was the consummate host - Lauren and Heather loved the rainbow cookies on day one ... each successive day had greater and grander snacks. Did I mention Spike was eager to please?
Mandy, Olivia, Erin and Lauren ... The Barbie Girls! Did you ever see a construction site where one person works, while everyone else watches? Truly, this was a BIG job, and the only time for pictures was during breaks. The gang enjoys one of many fine pots of coffee. Wednesday night the parishioners of St. John's treated all the relief workers to a shrimp bowl. We had (of course) shrimp, corn, potatoes and brussel sprouts. I wasn't there to witness the BOWL, but I imagine it involved gigantic pots, filled with the aforementioned goodies, in a brine of seasonings... FANTASTIC! Our group of 24 (18 students and 6 mentors), joined (I think) 6 Episcopalians who had traveled from the Lancaster area. All 30+ had a wonderful time together, enjoying meals and trading stories. I must have been at the back of the van (for the first time!) and bugging Lauren for a smile.
We hit the kitchen on Thursday. And applied a first full coat of Honeydew in the den. Little Audrey was the trim expert. This is my favorite picture - Lauren, Erin and Mandy silhouetted against the kitchen windows. Erin and Nick prime the laundry room windows. Note the dash of green above Little Audrey's left eye.
All week we shopped at Jerry Lee's, the favorite local grocery. At one end-cap were all sorts of pickled pig parts, the best by far being the Pickled Pigs Lips. How could one not be compelled to buy and fry this delicacy? On a dare, I can tell you that they are jelly-like in consistency, and not very memorable. Hans is a pilot for FedEx, and had to leave Friday morning, to be ready for work the next day. A few hardy souls (Kevin, Heather and Little Audrey) kept me company on the 40mile/6am van ride to-from the Mobile airport. Yup, that's his plane. Last day at Barbie's, too humid for oil paint, so we applied the last coat in the den, and enjoyed a smorgasbord of fresh strawberries, grapes, peanut brittle, German chocolate cake, and coffee!
Last group shots with our lovely host (I managed to delay shutter so I could squeeze into a pic with our happy little group). I stole the next 5 pictures from Stacy Hadeka's facebook profile.
This group (Nick, Tara, Samantha, Kevin, Stacy, Mike, Ethan, Steve, Drew, Erin) joined Steve Hicks and Neil, worked the week at a home where everything happened - siding, drywall, spackling and painting. Of course Nick joined us at Barbie's when he heard about the snacks! Stacy flanked by our southern buddies, Neil and Steve. On Friday night we toured Mobile (mostly just Dauphin Street) and ate at Wintzells. I had the shrimp poboy, not bad.
Time to go home, going westbound on the Twin Span, on our way back to the New Orleans airport. Winding our way through the Airtran ticket stand. Nick and Ben, and Nick again. Ethan and Stacy droop like under-watered potted plants. Self-portrait in coffee, with one cream and one sugar.