Monday, January 30, 2006

Being A Volunteer

. . . with no strings attached, opens the door for the purest form of help.

Mike has made our mission clear and simple: If someone asks for help . . . we help! This is not the way it is done in the real world. Usually we try to prioritize, form lists from most needy to least needy, set criteria, analyze motivation, factor in personality, health, gender, race, religion and a host of other issues all in the name of fairness I like to think that we help and by our example, love, the way Jesus would . . . no questions.

Destruction struck Pass Chrisitian at every level from the very rich to the very poor followed by equal 'unconditional' suffering. If we wait for our government to help or the church or the Red Cross, we will be dissapointed. It won't be done the way we think it should be done, it will take too long and by the time it filters down to those in need, hopefully, it will be completed by volunteers! One person told me today that he was so eager to get out of his FEMA trailer and into his real home. . . not for the obvious reasons but so that he could return all the good that was given to him. Helping is contagious! what do you think?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

From The Harbor To The suburbs

A bustling shrimp industry was brought to a hault by hurricane Katrina. The channel and shoreline are clogged with debris and most of the boat slips are beyond repair joining the shoreline to present a picture of almost total destruction.

A small suberb North of Gulfport fell victim to a Katrina offspring. A tornado swooped through the community, blew off the roofs of nearly all the homes and torrential rains left the interiors a soggy mess. Shelly and her husband saw their insurance money swallowed up by a greedy contractor long before the job was completed. She asked us to help finish the job.

Shelly's husband is serving in Iraq. They are expecting their second child Feb. 10 the date he will arrive home for a two week furlough. He has not been told that the reconstruction is nearly complete and expects to come home to an unliveable home. We were hoping to have new carpet in place but due to the heavy demand the earliest installation date is six weeks off. Perhaps in time for his officiaal return in late March. We feel fortunate to contribute to this happy reunion.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

God's Katrina Kitchen

It started with preparation of a few burgers on the beach and now serves over 500 volunteers and local residents three meals a day. It is staffed by volunteers and utilizes donated and surplus food. It also serves as the distribution point for clothing blankets and other necessities meals are delicious! It's a wonderful place to meet other volunteers and local residents. All have stories to tell.

The huge tent with wind whistling through the seams, rain water flowing under your feet and warm, cozy propane heaters is a beautiful setting to enjoy a good meal and savor the joy of helping those whose lives were turned upside down by this tragic hurricane.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Susie does nails, or at least she did until her business and her home were wiped out by the hurricane. She was good at what she did, coming in third in the international championship. Her many trophy's were about all she wanted to salvage. Shortly after the hurricane she watched the looters carry of her TV sets . . . Also watched them empty out a liquor store across the street, drinking about as much as they could swim away with. She no longer felt safe in her neighborhood and declined living in a FEMA trailer for that reason. Like so many others she has spent much of her time since the storm just trying to clean up her property. Although her house would need to be demolished she still took pride in wanting her yard looking nice. The stones surrounding the fish pond scattered over several lots, were lovingly collected in anticipation of a new and better pond. I can only imagine what it would be like to live for four months in sight of my totally ruined home . . . Patiently waiting for the Corps of Engineers to cart it away. I guess a clean yard is the place to start, It will allow the beauty of nature, a gift of God, to lead us into the sunlight of a new season,

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Church

The First United Methodist Church has become the staging ground for a massive effort to help clean up Pass Christian. During the week it bustles with activity, spreading into the community, helping anyone who asks. Mike Zimmerman is the driving force behind the effort and currently back in Michigan for a much needed break, His favorite slogan "We're here to build people first of all and houses are secondary." This spirit permeates the entire corps of over 600 volunteers that are helping bring back this community to the abundant life it once enjoyed.

The church has eemerged from three feet of water, thanks to the volunteer effort. Last week one group focused on restoring the pews and painting and on Sunday it once again became a house of worship.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Brother Bob and Sister Bim

This is the second sibling that I have lost since coming to Pass Christian. My sister Bernice (Bim) died just two days after I arrived on Jan, 2006. Bim along with my dad took on much of the responsibility for raising our family of seven after my mother died when I was just nine years old. She gave up her high school and college years to care for me (not an easy task) and my six siblings..

Brother Bob took over in my college years and though plagued with tuberculosis was my role model and mentor and in many ways responsible for me getting through college. His funeral is today, at this hour.

As with my sister I will not be attending the funeral. . . . Not an easy decision to make. Yet in many ways I think I have felt closer to them from this distance and in this place than I would have had I been physically present at the memorial service. I feel it is possible in the quietness of this place to reflect on the memories of our years together and to go even beyond that and experience a spiritual connection I did not know was possible.

Maybe it is this place. Surrounded by unbelievable destruction of property and the shattering of lives and families, on one hand, and the unconditional love and compassion acted out on the other . . . I can only marvel at the depths people are willing to journey to provide a glimmer of hope.

I know there are other religions or groups capable of achieving this level of love and compassion, but for now I sense the purest form of Christianity that I have known.. That spirit is truly contagious. In my short time here I have witnessed volunteers venturing from tiny First United Methodist Church of Pass Christian, MS into somoene elses home and world and emerge with the conviction that the spirit is being passed along.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Driveway Diplomacy

Just two weeks ago I arrived at Pass Christian, MS, stubbornly choose to live in my truck and only a few nights ago night, when the temperature dipped below freezing, did I move into one of the converted bunk rooms in the church. Smart move! Several of the groups I got to know are leaving in the morning and other groups are arriving. I shared 'mucking out a water logged home the past two days . . . Which is a great way to bond with eight college guys.
Mike Zimmerman the volunteer coordinator has been helping me get acquainted with the many steps necessary to make this massive effort work. He is good at it and I only hope I'll be able to be of help to him and this community. The leaders of the varied groups are 'semi-organized' and anxious to cut through the red tape to get the job done. An example of 'Driveway Diplomacy' was our meeting with an elderly couple in their temporary trailer home. They own valuable property and want to avoid putting into the hands of the casino operators. Mike and another coordinator arranged the meeting and within an hour the couple-agreed to a long term plan to allow the property to be developed as somewhat of a retreat center that would allow potential donors to be invited to observe first hand the massive destruction and many year effort that will be needed to bring it back to some level of normalcy.

Ms Althea

Check out: and

I spent today at her home, Actually she has two homes, both drying out after being inundated with six feet of water and buffeted by 150 mph winds. I had been working at establishing a rapport with her after being told by her wonderful friend and neighbor that she wasn’t going to allow ”Just anyone to go through her stuff.” Perhaps 90 percent of homes that can be rebuilt have undergone the ‘mucking’ process. Ms Althea was one of the last holdouts.

Lyn and Gary Cheslek paid us a visit and Althea threateed to start charging if I asked her to pose for any more photos. . . but she did allow me to take her to God's Katrina Kitchen for lunch. What a beautiful lady!She learned very quickly that we felt as guests in her home and as volunteers were there to help her through the process

Our crew of five college students and their professor had been assigned to “(muck out) the house which simply means removing everything down to the bare studs and the six inches of muck that has seeped to the floor. Finishing the muck out process and stripping the walls fell to the next group . . . a dedicated group of volunteers from Louisville, Kentucky

Imagine, if you can, thinking for five months about your every worldly possession slowly deteriorating into a soggy mess and finally taking the bold step of prying open the front door to begin the task of reclaiming memories from the past 83 years.The highligt . . . looking through the foot locker of her grand daddy a veteran of world War 1 (one that is). Including his helmet, dog tags uniform, gas mask and much more It was also exciting for me!

She learned very quickly that we felt as guests in her home and as volunteers were there to help her through the process.

The Story: Breaking Through

My job, along with a crew of ten: Remove debris, after looking for valuable possessions.

The family decided to"Ride out the storm. . . .The worst decision I ever made" the father told me. The incoming surge of water forced then into the attic and when it kept coming he was forced to kick a hole in the roof and along with his wife, two children and two dogs clung to the chimney until the water receded and they were rescued.

Welcome to the Dad-Cam Blog!


What do we have in common?

Katrina is well known as the hurricane that devastated much of the Gulf Coast. Dad-cam (aka Dad Feets, aka Don Wierenga) is much less known as the web-site which normally is fired up this time of the year to report Spring Break action from South Padre Island, TX.

This winter, starting Jan.2, 2006 I'll be reporting from Pass Christian, MS. where I will offer my services to this small community nearly wiped out by the hurricane.

My goal will be the same: From the perspective of a Dad (and Grand Dad) give an honest appraisal of the action that surrounds me. One big difference is that this year I hope to be part of the action. My assignment is not clear. But stay tuned . . . .!