Tickled to get a tarp | VailDaily.com

Tickled to get a tarp

J.K. Perry
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyMelanie Morgan from Lakewood returns from her fifth day of tearing out wet drywall and mold in Gulfport, Miss. Morgan and the group of 29 people she came to Mississippi with will be in town to volunteer one more day.

GULFPORT, Miss. – Volunteers across Gulfport end each day grimy and sweaty from the massive hurricane cleanup now underway. Still, some Coloradans are jazzed up to take part.”We’re just like ants moving things along,” said exuberant Denver resident Shelley Liester. She and 29 other Denver residents arrived in Gulfport Sunday to join North Carolina Baptist Men, a nonprofit disaster relief group.”We don’t just talk, we do,” said Liester of the nondenominational Crossroads Church.Since Sept. 5, the North Carolina group has operated out of a massive parking-lot base complete with a kitchen to feed 10,000 and trailers stocked with food and ice. About 5,200 meals per day are provided to volunteers and countless hurricane victims at the camp and around the city.About 200 volunteers sleep in churches and schools nearby.

“This is a great experience as far as dealing with people and being able to meet their needs,” coordinator John Gore said. “This was one of the most devastating disasters I’ve seen.”The group has mobilized for other disasters, including the tsunami in Sri Lanka, tornadoes in Oklahoma and many others. The group receives some aid from the Red Cross.Gore handle logistics at the base camp, while others distribute meals to survivors in the city’s most devastated areas near the beach and outlying areas.”It can get pretty emotional dealing with these people,” Gore said. “I don’t think I’d be able to deal with it if I wasn’t so busy. Some of the people that go out in the field for a week are mentally exhausted.”When the cleanup slows to a trickle, the Baptist group plans to begin rebuilding. They’ve done it before. When Hurricane Ivan battered Florida, the group rebuilt 1,700 homes.

Tom Stipe, a pastor at Crossroads in Denver, also plans to help Gulfport rebuild. He came to Gulfport to clean up after the need impelled the Colorado group to offer aid.”There’s not enough government to fix this. There has to be people helping people,” he said. On Thursday, dust clung to Stipe and Liester’s sweat-drenched faces and clothes. Their group is removing drywall soaked when portions of Gulfport were flooded by the 30-foot storm surge.Mold is a growing problem in homes and can cause an asthma outbreak. Tearing out drywall and spraying the underlying innards with a bleach mix prevents mold from spreading.Some were not as fortunate to have a home. When tents weren’t available, the North Carolina group handed out tarps for shelter.

“People were tickled to death just to get a tarp,” Gore said. “When you have nothing, it means a lot.”Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or jkperry@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado

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