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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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No one's going hungry here on Thanksgiving Day. No less than five public feasts are being planned for Thursday's holiday in and around the towns of Bay St. Louis and Waveland.

Rough calculations, gathered from those groups offering free turkey dinners, indicate that more meals are being planned than there are people living in this storm-wracked area.  Indeed, there is enough food being prepared to feed the populations of Bay St. Louis and Waveland even before Hurricane Katrina forced people to flee.

Too much of a good thing?  Hardly.  Even in these desperate times the community has risen to the occasion: organizers of the Bay St. Louis feast say the entire county has been invited to come share the bounty.

The biggest feast will be the community dinner being planned by Bay St. Louis. There preparations are already under way to feed some 7,500 people, according to Brad Whitley who is overseeing the effort.  Whitley, who runs his own catering business back in Moreno Valley, Calif., and looks like he'd be just as much at home playing lineman in the NFL as wearing a chef's hat, said he plans on deep frying 120 turkeys today.  "We'll have our own pyrotechnics show on top of everything else," he says jokingly. 

Calvary Chapel of Moreno Valley, Calif., is partnering with Rotary International and WLOX-TV out of Knoxville, Tenn., to put on the dinner.  Members of other Calvary Chapels have been in Bay St. Louis serving free meals at "Camp Calvary" since shortly after the hurricane hit. 

"We were planning on trying to do something in our little camp," said Whitley, who is affectionately known as "Bubba,"; however, "the Lord had more people in mind to feed," he said.

Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre brought the partnership together and asked Calvary Chapel if it would spearhead the effort.  "It's a little bigger scale than what we're used to," Whitley said.  At the height of their service here, Camp Calvary was serving 6,000 meals a day, he said. "So we've kind of learned the process."

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Calvary Chapel volunteers Justin Baughman and Nick Lazzareschi balance a tall load of hinged-lid styrofoam food trays while preparing for Thursday's banquet at the Depot. (John Brecher / MSNBC.com)

Donations for the feast have come in from all over, including from members of the community that have come by, offering up turkeys, hams, and other food.  "They're telling us they are thankful we've been here and they want to give back," Whitley said. 

The Bay St. Louis dinner kicks off at 11 a.m and "has no ending time," Whitley said.  "We'll go until everyone has more than they need to eat.

The other major feast being planned is down the road in Waveland at the New Waveland Cafe.  The meals served there are cafe's swan song; the group intends to dismantle the instant community that has grown up around the cafe on Saturday. 

Here, too, the people of Waveland have come together to give back to those who have, in every sense, been their lifeline, dispensing food, clothing, groceries, and essentials that are the warp and woof of life, down to bottles of shampoo and stuffed animals for the kids.

The New Waveland Cafe plans to serve a traditional Thanksgiving feast (if your definition of traditional includes a tent-city in the middle of a decimated shopping center) to some 2,000 people, right down to the 193 homemade pies that have been shipped in from Wisconsin. 

And while the New Waveland Cafe crew will be busy as early as 5:30 a.m. starting the cooking duties, the bulk of their turkeys are being prepared by the citizens of Waveland themselves.

"People have come by offering to cook a turkey and bring it back for us to use here," said Arjay Sutton, one of those on the cooking crew.  "We'll have about 50 turkeys being home-cooked and brought in to us," he said. 

Asked about what happens to the traditional leftovers, Sutton laughed, noting that the cafe still has a couple more days it'll be serving food.  "Besides, we'll have a lot more help with leftovers here than you'd have at home."

Clovis Siemon, one of the initial members that set up the cafe nearly three months ago, said he'll miss being with his family this Thanksgiving.  "But I'm also looking forward to spending Thanksgiving Day with my new family here."

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17 COMMENTS

Happy Thanksgiving, Waveland and Bay St Louis! I know I have plenty to be thankful for (including the 2 inches of snow that fell last night) but I'm sure you have so much more. I wish you a grand feast!

Certainly hope that the leftovers do not go to waste, but at least there is a meal planned for those that have no ability to cook for themselves, family or friends due to the loss of their homes, or the fact that there is little to no electicity and gas in so many areas. We think that at least people have thought of those who were so badly affected by these hurricanes and floods.

Our prayers are with one and all for a very good Thanksgiving Day-and may they have many blessings and the best in all of their future endeavors. Assalamu alaikum (means: peace be upon you)
God bless you all.

The New Waveland Cafe has been great. It was there early on after the storm for the people of Waveland and has stayed for 3 months. I know many people of the community will miss the generous workers that toiled tirelessly for citizens who truly needed help. Many people still need help.

God Bless al th folks in Waveland and BSL...My daughter has been a volunteer there and is going back mid December on her break....she loves you all and is SOOOOO glad you have not been forgotten.

On this day of Thanks, I ask that God continue to watch over and help all those in need, there and everywhere. I wouls also express my own thanks to all that offered help and prayers to all of those effected by the storms this year. God Bless.

Happy Thanksgiving to all the fine people on the Ms Gulf Coast.

Ist Baptist of Woodstown NJ has alarge home which is availble for any one in need; for amonth or year. Do you know of any one??????? email raydottie@hot.com

I went to the dinner at the depot. It was great, the volunteers was great and the weather was great. Even under normal condtions that would have been a great way to spend the day.
The volunteers were there to serve and really did make the dinner nice and enjoyable.
The food - yeah - it was great too - just like a normal thanksgiving - the bell was full.

After reading the "Too much of a good thing" article I'm overwhelmed by the out pouring of support to the Bay area. I feel fortunate to have been part of a five member Rotary group from Wisconsin that not only brought our ouw truck of goods but was able to help distribute food, water and staples at the Zuppardo's Bay Plaza in coordination with the Foundation Hope POD. As one person told me, today is better than yesterday, but not as good as tomorrow will be. My Thanksgiving prayer is that everyone from the area had a full plate of Turkey dinner and love from your neighbors throughout the county.

Hey everyone, I'm glad to hear that there was a bit of normalcy back in the Bay-Waveland area. I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, or as good as it can be.

I'm glad to see a poster from Wisconsin. You might be interested to know that you folks (along with so very many others) are not only much appreciated in the coastal counties, but many of the inland (*very* inland) Mississippi counties as well. I understand it was a utility crew from Wisconsin that restored the electricity in my part of Yazoo County four days after Katrina struck; Yazoo County, by the way, is located approximately 200 miles northeast of the Waveland-Bay St. Louis area, and there were areas even this far north that looked like a tornado had ripped through after Katrina came to call. There are just no words to express our heartfelt gratitude to all the people who have traveled so far, and worked so hard, and given so generously, to help everyone affected by Katrina: our folks on the Mississippi Gulf Coast from Pascagoula to Pearlington who have suffered so much loss; those overlooked victims on Alabama's coastline near Mobile; our neighbors in Louisiana; and even those of us who aren't normally affected by such cataclysmic weather disasters but were blindsided by this one. (As the mayor of the Holmes County community of Tchula noted, "So when was the last time a hurricane hit the Delta?") The magnitude of Katrina's devastation has been matched by the magnanimous generosity of our American brothers and sisters, and you are definitely at the top of the list of things for which we Mississippians should be thankful. God bless you all.

Praise God for those workers from the bible college. God can truly work through so many people. I'm praying for you guys and girls down there. God Bless.

We went to the thanksgiving day meal at the train depot,my wife and I and our three little girls.As a matter of fact we all rode our bicycles there.We live just a few blocks from the depot.The weather was nice,the meal was great and the volunteers were outstanding!They seated us at a table with a beautiful thanksgiving day arrangement on it.After we ate dinner,including desert, we had a family picture taken and were handed a number to come back later and pick up the photo.The kids played all of the activities, winning stuffed animals.We were able to visit with many of our friends.Because of all these wonderful people our thanksgiving day 2005 will always stand out.They helped us forget how tough rebuilding our community,our churches,our schools,our houses and our lives really is. One can see all the pictures and still not grasp how sad it is to see entire neighborhoods gone.The huge oaks along the beach uprooted, forever gone.Our elderly neighbors who have also lost everything,but do not have time on their side. Thank God for all the people across the country that has done so much for us.

A huge thank you to all of those from the Rainbow Family Of Living Light that has been the core of the Waveland Cafe. I have been to a few of the Rainbow gatherings, and nowhere have I seen better examples of teaching the value of community. Thank you so much for all the heart, and "walking the walk".

This is my first time to this site and I have to say that this is an amazing place to be. My heart goes out to everyone, everywhere that has been affected by these storms. You all are very strong spirited, from the victims to the volunteers. I live in Columbus, MS and we were barely touched by Katrina and life returned to normal within a few days. We all watched along with the world as the devastation unfolded and the preparations began. All the while people in need were strong and full of hope. I am guilty of not being as strong as you all have been. I had a car accident last Wedsnesday (coming from paying the car note, down the street from my insurance company of all places) and no one was injured and I STILL sulked around like a baby all day and night. Just down in the dumps so bad that I was not really thankfull for being able to walk away. All I could think about was "MY CAR MY CAR!!!" Well, after praying for understanding, my girlfriend (who is a Minister) told me "You can replace a car, but you cannot replace you!" With that said, my perspective on life came rushing in. I am so thankful to be alive. It hurt me so much to see my Accord in the state that is in after so much time/money/effort was put in it, sort of like your homes, but on a vastly smaller scale. When I thought about everything that happened, I realized that I was so thankful to be alive and able to see thanksgiving and eat a wonderful meal (not cooked by me, by her out of town family) and I know that is what matters, to be alive, to see another day and to do better. I pray for everyone who has a loss of any kind and for all those who have lent the helping hands. I thank you for your support even though I have not been impacted by the storm but for the simple reason that we are all people living one life on one earth. Houses, cars, jobs, they all come and go multiple times throughout your life. Your life has one cycle. If you have your health, use your strength to rebuild your lives and take care of yourself and your family. As I learned so cleary the day before thanksgiving, your life can be changed in the blink of an eye, car accidents, and hurricanes included. God bless the human soul.

We came down to Long Beach w/40+ turkeys & gray for Thanksgiving. Stayed at the Episcopal school there. For the week we stayed and worked and had to leave on Saturday. We let no one go hungry and it was by far the best time i've had doing anything in a long time. The only downer was leaving. Too much still left to do. Our groups thoughts are goinf to be on the people in Long Beach & Pass Christian for a long time. We're coming back soon. Real soon.

How wonderful to have a new beginning on one of the most precious holidays in our U.S. history. As the pilgrims prepared their Thanksgiving table, this new 21st century Thanksgiving table was opened with loving, warm hearts. We are a blessed and wonderful nation of caring individuals.

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