January 31, 2008
ST. MARTIN -- Within the next two months, six area families will move into new homes, thanks in part to a group of business leaders who joined with Habitat for Humanity International for a one-day home building session Wednesday.
More than 200 members of Schneider Electric's leadership team attacked work needed on six Habitat for Humanity houses on Rosemont Drive.
Team members came from across North America, from New Mexico to Canada, for an annual leadership conference in Biloxi, said Dave Petratis, chief executive officer of Schneider's North American operating division.
Petratis said it was an easy decision to choose the Gulf Coast as the location for the conference for the second year in a row, because the employees "get much more" from building Habitat homes than they would by playing golf.
"Our people really enjoy working in teams like this," Petratis said.
The company and hundreds of its leaders visited the area last year to help build three homes and a playground at the Bob Hayes Memorial Park in the Hickory Hill area of Gautier.
The Chicago-based company worked on 600 Habitat homes across the nation in 2007, Petratis said.
Joe Mulvey, a regional development director for Habitat for Humanity International, said Schneider Electric is a longtime partner whose work helps people understand that some Gulf Coast residents are still displaced from the storm.
"This is the ministry. This is it," Mulvey said.
One Habitat home was dedicated Wednesday afternoon, and the other houses will be finished in the next six weeks.
Christy and James Anderson plan to move into their new home within the next several weeks. The couple's St. Martin home suffered roof damage and became infested with mold after Hurricane Katrina. They have been renting a house since the storm but have been wanting their own home again.
"If it wasn't for Habitat and Schneider Electric, we wouldn't have a place of our own," Christy Anderson said.
Petratis said he's "dismayed and shocked" that there isn't more debate about the needs of the Gulf Coast, especially from the presidential candidates.
"This is a U.S. problem, and the corporations of America need to get involved," Petratis said.