May 11, 2008
Thousands of volunteers will join former President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter this week to build more than 250 homes in the four states hardest hit by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
This massive humanitarian effort will involve 18 Habitat for Humanity affiliates in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The host affiliate will be Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which has its headquarters in Biloxi.
We thank the volunteers.
We thank the Carters.
We thank Habitat for Humanity.
And we join Habitat for Humanity in thanking the more than three dozen partners whose support will make this week's work possible, including the Knight Foundation, Dow Chemical Co., the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the Home Depot Foundation, the PMI Foundation, Whirlpool Corp. and the Salvation Army.
And we would like to ask them all for one more thing to be thankful for.
'Critical needs are linked together'
As Donna Alexander, executive director of the United Way of South Mississippi, has noted, "Critical community needs are linked together."
When you place a family in decent and affordable housing, you immediately improve the mental health of the members of that family. Stable housing also contributes to a stable work force.
So as these volunteers and partners go about their task in South Mississippi, we ask them to keep an eye out for other tasks that they might be willing and able to help us with, including identifying problems that need to be solved or solutions that need to be duplicated.
Those of us who have been here since the beginning of the recovery and rebuilding process could benefit from a fresh assessment and a new perspective.
This request is not intended to distract any volunteers from their immediate assignments.
But these new houses are not being built in a vacuum. If the volunteers putting up these houses spot ways to improve the environment - civic as well as physical - surrounding these homes, then we believe that South Mississippians would welcome their suggestions.
Still learning from the lessons of Katrina
South Mississippians' willingness to listen certainly extends to the sponsors of these volunteers as well.
If the leaders and agents of these businesses and institutions have thoughts on the recovery and rebuilding process they would like to share, we encourage them to do so.
South Mississippi is still learning from the lessons of Katrina and the more mentoring and tutoring available, the better.
We are constantly grading our own performance and have a pretty good idea of where we think we stand.
What we would appreciate is the opinion of others.
"This will be a fantastic week for the Coast. It will provide an infusion of new energy and be a real spark for all of us." - Donna Alexander, executive director of the United Way of South Mississippi