By Stephanie Moffett, FEMA Region VI publicaffairs specialist
A massive volunteer effort along the Gulf Coast in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita has just wrapped up.
The Mennonite Disaster Service formally closed its final project last month in New Orleans with a “Passing the Torch” ceremony – which was attended by 70 MDS personnel, Mennonite leaders, local pastors, disaster response workers, community members and the Director of DHS’ Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
“It was great to be a part of such a moving ceremony,” FEMA Region VI Voluntary Agency Liaison and Donations Specialist Mark Davis said. “The people and communities along the Gulf Coast are so resilient; it’s so impressive to see them bounce back after such catastrophic disasters.”
“MDS states in its mission, ‘While the main focus is on clean up, repair and rebuilding homes, this service touches lives and nurtures hope, faith and wholeness.’ Clearly the organization saw the devastation as an opportunity to turn that mission into action,” said FEMA Region VI Voluntary Agency Liasion Jamie Dake. “These volunteer groups are a key part of the recovery effort in New Orleans and across the country. They fill in the gaps where state and federal aid may not be available.”
MDS spent seven years and 8 million dollars helping to rebuild the Gulf Coast after Katrina and Rita. During that time, more than 17,000 volunteers worked 126,400 days cleaning up 194 sites; completing 739 minor repairs, and completing 183 major repairs and 549 rebuilds.