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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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This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

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LAKESHORE, Miss. -- The First Baptist Church Myrick in Laurel, Miss., doesn’t have a huge congregation, just 125, but that didn’t stop Pastor Jackie Spell and three members from packing up a mobile kitchen trailer and showing up just in time for lunch one sunny day at the relief camp on the property that had been the Lakeshore Baptist Church.

Hamburgers and chicken patties were on the menu and the out-of-town cooks had plenty of takers tired of the canned and packaged food they’ve had to rely on.

This was the second trip down from Laurel, the first was to deliver an organ. A third trip just before Christmas will bring youth to help with rebuilding efforts.

Laurel’s about 100 miles away and it too suffered Katrina damage. But Spell says “we’re pretty much stable now, so we wanted to come down here and help.”

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Hello from Grenada, MS. My husband is in Chalmette for his third trip with the relief effort as a chaplain/carpenter/whatever is needed. On the front page of our hometown paper, it stated that FEMA expected Mississippians to riot. How wrong they were and how insulted I was.Yes, times have been difficult but no riots here. We just pull together, help each other, and we pray. I am proud that this Bible-belt state just tightened up that belt and went to work. We can't thank everyone enough for all they have done and continue to do. Blessings to the Laurel church. I pray that this Christmas season will bring you joy and peace like never before.

Once again, American citizens helping American citizens. After hearing all the horror stories about FEMA, the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and even the Salvation Army, the only thing left is to get the money to the people who are actually helping. Fortunately, there has been many references in all these stories to guide us. We just need to have a better long-term memory and to hold ALL government employees accountable. HHSDC seem to be the only agency with their act together. Thank God for the American spirit. AND Merry Christmas to all.

As soon as I started to watch the news coverage of Katrina and the tragedy unfolding, I started trying to contact agencies to volunteer to help. I also contacted my local county and city officials in the suburbs of Chicago to suggest fund raisers and offer my help. I was disheartened by the apparent apathy I got as I offered my help to them. It was days before I could finally get through to the local Red Cross office and I have been a volunteer every week since then. I also did some volunteer work with the Northern Illinois Food Depository. It pales in comparison to the need that still exists in the southern states that were most hit by Katrina. My older sister went to Florida after the last major hurricane hit the Ft Lauderdale area and was hoping to get work with FEMA doing clean up but no funds came through from FEMA, and no work so she came back home. There are still a lot of Americans that want to help the people that so desperately need it but we too are frustrated when we can't do more. I have donated money even though I am currently barely making ends meet myself, so I donate what I can in other ways. I wish there was more that I could do other than collecting cans of food, clothes and volunteering at Red Cross. I pray to God to help me accept what I can change and let go of what I can not and to do the next right thing. God Bless one and all, my prayers are with you and your loved ones. Even if our government fails us, we can not and will not fail each other as a country. Too bad Katrina didn’t hit Washington D.C. and wipe it clean – it’s time they made a effort to get rid of their garbage like dishonest politicians that take millions in bribes and then cry about it when they get caught. More fleecing of America stories every time we turn around showing how our hard earned taxes are paying corrupt politicians to live their lives of luxury? And, of course, let’s not forget Mike Brown’s Niemen Marcus wardrobe.

Regarding the comments about Americans helping Americans and getting money to those actually helping, it is hard for victims who have no insurance (not just flood) to know who to turn to for help. My mother is one of those who is in her 80's and on social security alone and was living in an older family home that could not be insured affordably.
Many people have oppened up their wallets and purses and hearts to help, but that help is temporary. The Red Cross gives limited assistance; FEMA is the same as are all the others. Groups like Habitat for Humanity build new homes when they can. Rebuilding Together has a limited number of projects for those who know about it and have signed up. Many people who have homes that could be repaired, but have no money or assistance are in limbo waiting to see if they will be able to repair their homes or if they will have to be abandoned because they can't afford to repair them. Assistance is needed for those people in the form of labor and money.
I do want to thank all who have come to our aid during the crisis and hope that we will not be forgotten as the months and years pass, because it will take a long time, which some people don't have, to rebuild.
Merry Christmas

Maryann, I couldn't have said it any better! Washington and those who represent it are a joke, PERIOD. They don't represent the majority of the people as they are supposed to but continually grease the palms of those in positions that can elevate them in government stature. What are we as Americans to do when you have no trust whatosever in our leaders? Help each other as sisters and brothers, one and all, the way we're currently doing without the help of the President and his men or agencies such as FEMA, The Red Cross, etc.
God bless the U.S.A.

God bless First Baptist Church Myrick, in Laurel, MS, and all of those who give so much of their time, money and love for those of us hurting from the storm. Once again it shows what a wonderful, caring nation we have here in the United States.

For those who have stated they want to help and are frustrated, I've found a wonderful site that connects those who have something to donate directly with people in need. You can adopt a family with gift cards, warm winter coats, etc., or just send what you have that you aren't using, extra sheets, towels, clothing, etc. They've been a great help to my family and friends and I highly recommend that survivors and donors alike go to www.beenthereclearinghouse.com and help each other out. God bless you.

Curious about Phyllis' message above. What is meant by "horror stories" regarding Habitat? (I've heard plenty regarding FEMA and some with the Red Cross). And who/what is HHSCD?

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