Hancock looks at shortening volunteer lifeline

South Mississippi Sun Herald

Friday 23 December 2005, 6:05 pm

HANCOCK COUNTY - The hordes of volunteers, whose kindness has served as a lifeline for thousands of residents here since Katrina, could soon be leaving.

The county has fashioned a plan that could have some of the groups, and their free meals, gone in less than a month. The plan is designed to have all the free goods and services shut down in 90 days. The recovery plan, first made public last week during a meeting of the Board of Supervisors, outlines what free goods and services will end, and when.

"We're not trying to phase anything out, it's just about getting back to normal," said Bryan Adam, director of the county's emergency management agency.

Thousands of volunteers and faith-based groups have come to Hancock County to help, and by now, locals know where to find food, cleaning supplies and donated clothes. Some of those groups already are headed in that direction.

Christian Life Church in Orange Beach, Ala., has given away hundreds of thousands of dollars in free supplies from the Kmart parking lot in Waveland, but the group is making plans to shift its focus. "We've gutted out about 40 or 50 homes already, and we plan to eventually move from giving away supplies and food to manual labor; helping people rebuild their homes," said Jimmy Blackwell, who leads the church's relief effort.

The concern is this: With so many volunteers in the county, local businesses, hoping to reopen, will struggle trying to sell many of the same items being offered for free.

But many people are still without transportation, making it difficult to get to the grocery store in Diamondhead, the Wal-Mart Express in Waveland, or one of the few restaurants that have reopened.

"If we still have just two grocery stores open, then people will still need some things," he said. "We are going to work with the volunteers to make it a smooth transition."