WAVELAND, Miss.—On a dusty side road just off the main strip, there is a flurry of activity. In a neighborhood where most homes stand silent, this one has about 20 men and women working on the roof. They’re fast, but also festive, moving supplies up ladders and nailing down shingles.
It doesn’t have the feel of a typical roofing crew, and it’s not. It’s the Jehovah’s Witnesses, here to help one of their own.
For homeowner Alice Maness, this is the third crew to come through. The first came and cleaned out the muck, the second gutted the house. And now, the roofers are here.
“We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they help each other,” Maness says.
As we learn, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a well-practiced system for disaster relief. The organization sends out teams to assess damage to members’ homes, orders the materials needed, sets up a base, and then begins deploying church volunteers from its churches all over the country. There are about 300 people at just one of its three bases in the Katrina-stricken region.
Even in normal times, building is part of the church’s culture, because members join building parties to construct Kingdom Halls used for worship.
“We’re practiced, and super fast,” says Brian Matusz.
He should know. His house in Gulf Breeze, Fla., took four feet of water after Hurricane Ivan. But “brothers and sisters” arrived, in wave after wave, and made it habitable within six weeks.
“They came in from everywhere. It was unbelievable,” says Matusz. Now, he says, his house is the only one standing in the cul-de-sac. “All the other neighbors couldn’t get the insurance and everything together, and they’ve all bulldozed.”
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