Volunteers take Hattiesburg by storm
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 00:02
The Hattiesburg community has wasted no time pouring themselves into volunteer efforts to assist tornado victims since a tornado tore through town, leaving a path of devastation in its wake. Citizens have put their jobs and personal lives aside to meet the needs of others in this time of crisis.
According to county emergency management officials Monday morning, Hattiesburg is about two weeks ahead of where most cities would be after a natural disaster, because of updated systems and volunteer efforts.
“It’s amazing to see individuals who want to help their neighbors,” said Dave Ware, Ward 4 Councilman. “The number of volunteers we have seen is astonishing.”
Ware is part of a group that has set up at Hardy Street Baptist Church to coordinate volunteer efforts for the areas east of U.S. 49. The group has met at 7:30 a.m. each morning since the tornado. They have followed behind Mississippi Power in the damaged areas and sent volunteer teams out clear roads, remove debris and assist people once they have assessed the area is safe.
The past week has shown that there is something everyone can do to help out.
Last Tuesday, The Depot Coffeehouse and Bistro had about 80 volunteers assist The Venue at the Bakery Building to pack lunches for victims, workers and emergency responders. The group made over 1,000 meals in just a few hours.
The Keg and Barrel fed 600 people through The Salvation Army with proceeds from a soul food buffet they had on the same day.
Christian Services has been taking donations and volunteers every day. They are in need of items such as tarps, cleaning supplies, hygiene items and canned foods. Volunteers have been dropping off items all week in overwhelming amounts. Christian Services has also set up a donation site at Turtle Creek Mall for tornado victims in that area of Hattiesburg.
These efforts just graze the surface of what people have been doing around Hattiesburg. It’s also just the beginning of what is to come from this city.
“It’s small communities coming together. Homeowners are so appreciative, and they will actually tell you to help their neighbors before them,” Melinda Lott, a volunteer from Sumrall, said.
If last week’s campus clean-up tells anything about the University of Southern Mississippi, it’s that there are students who care to “leave Southern Miss better than they found it.” Students also have the opportunity to leave Hattiesburg better than they found it as well.
“Hattiesburg is so centered around student and citizen involvement, that when you step foot onto campus you step foot into the Hattiesburg family too,” said Betsy Mercier, a lifelong Hattiesburg resident and USM freshman. “Even if community events or disasters don’t directly affect the students, it’s important for them to share their support and enthusiasm with the community because both are so closely related. The love and support in Hattiesburg right now is infectious, and I just can’t help but want to go out and give back.”
The USM Center for Community and Civic Engagement is a resource for students wanting to get involved in the community, especially in this time. They post a Tornado Recovery Report each day with opportunities for service. The report can be found on their Facebook page, as well as a form to receive the report by e-mail.