In the Sun Herald

The Sun Herald newspaper did a story on Lakeshore last week.

Banding together like never before
By PETE TATTERSALL

LAKESHORE – What Hurricane Katrina did

The Lakeshore Baptist Church and a local school, Gulfview Elementary, are the two primary points of distribution where locals can find food and supplies. The area nearby lies in a state of disrepair, with houses heavily damaged and, in many cases, moved completely off their foundations.

The world is still upside down here.

Houses sit mere inches from the roadside, displaced from their foundations on the opposite side of the street. Trees are still littered with debris. The local church steeple is all that remains of the house that God built. And Tammy Kern and her three kids still rely on a bucket when nature calls.

But there is hope. In many ways, the people of this southwestern Mississippi coastal community have banded together like never before.

“Everybody realizes they can’t make it on their own. We’ve all pulled together, and realized that we also had to rely on people outside, too,” said the Rev. Don A. Elbourne Jr. of Lakeshore Baptist Church.

With hope and a bit of luck, a metal, fixed-structure building will soon replace the Quonset hut that now serves as both a place of worship and a temporary shelter. And a place of refuge, both spiritually and mentally, is what a lot of folks are seeking. While the church had an average Sunday attendance of about 50 members before Katrina, that number has since doubled, according to Elbourne.

“Daily needs still need to be met. Because everything’s gone in Lakeshore. But there’s also the less tangible, like being able to find a place that doesn’t look like a hurricane came through it,” Elbourne said, as he turned in a slow circle. “Because everywhere you look, everywhere you turn, you’re reminded that there’s destruction all around you.”

The help from outside the community has been immeasurable, said Elbourne, primarily from churches spread all over the country.

“My phone rings all day, with people saying what do you need, when can we come?” he said.

And while FEMA still supplies water and ice to the local populace, it is residents like Jeni Ward and her husband, Mart, who volunteer to staff the point of distribution. In this case, that’s Gulfview Elementary School, about a half mile down the road from Lakeshore Baptist Church.

“The community has definitely come together. For the past three or four weeks, we’ve had nothing but locals manning that distribution center themselves,” said Jeni Ward. “So it’s been amazing. All I did was put a sign, and they sign up and show up and do what they’re supposed to do. And quite a few of the volunteers are dependent upon it themselves.”

The demographics

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, most of the people living on or near Lakeshore Road in Hancock County are white. Most of the homes in the census tract that includes the road are valued at less than $100,000, although 25 percent are valued at between $100,000 and $150,000. The tract has a median household income of $33,353.

The Sun Herald this month is running a series, which we will continue to update as South Mississippi recovers.

During November, we will look at a different community each day and see how it was affected by Hurricane Katrina. Our 30 Communities in 30 Days series will look at how these communities are coping and coming back. We will update these stories every six months.

Jennifer Garcia looks for food at the Lakeshore Baptist Church relief tent. Garcia was married at the church, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

The Rev. Don Elbourne Jr., right, talks with Jeni and Mart Ward of Lakeshore and Ben Sims, second from left, of Salem, Ore., at the relief complex set up at Lakeshore Baptist Church, which has become a hub for relief efforts.

2 thoughts on “In the Sun Herald”

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  2. Don,

    How wonderful to read that the people in your community are coming to hear the Word of God preached with faith. I realize these are still trying times and many of your flock are still living in pretty primitive conditions, but how beautiful it is when God’s people rejoice in His mercy together.

    Jeri

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