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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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WAVELAND, Miss. -- Christmas won't slip through the cracks for the children of Waveland and Bay St. Louis this year if Margaret Raker, founder of GERT Ministries, has anything to say about it.

Operating at the margins of bigger, more organized relief efforts, Raker practices a kind of guerrilla relief. The Temperance, Mich., woman founded GERT (God's Emergency Response Team) on a shoestring, funding the three-person relief effort out of her own pocket and operating out of a "mobile command headquarters" cleverly disguised as an aging RV with threadbare tires and a wheezing eight-cylinder engine.

This is Raker's third trip to the region since Katrina hit.

"I go back to my hometown and ask everyone I know for donations," Raker says "This time we named the trip 'Christmas for Waveland.'" She also sends out a newsletter asking people to drop off donations at local businesses.

GERT's efforts are dwarfed by larger Christmas missions aimed at the area; at least two different groups have loaded up tractor trailer trucks with toys that have been distributed here already. But judging by the response, those previously delivered toys have barely made a dent in the need.

Raker's RV is parked in front of a blown out hotel just off the main highway here while her niece, Shealee Moore, stands along the side of the road holding a handmade cardboard sign advertising "Free Toys!"

"We've had a 100 or so people by already and it's not even noon," Raker says, nodding to the few remaining boxes of toys awaiting distribution. "And we started out with about 400 toys this morning."

Far from being disappointed that she doesn't have more to give out, Raker is anxious to have her inventory cleared out so she can get back, load up and make another trip.

"I'm looking to get bigger," Raker says. "I'm on a mission from God."

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"I'm on a mission from God"....i sense Blues Brothers...just kidding...bless ya'll for ya efforts!!!

God bless people like Margaret Raker who see a need and act on it. It's too bad that so many of us don't follow her example. If we were all Margarets, maybe things would be better in the Deep South right now.

Thank God for GERT. We need more people to give from their hearts.

God Bless you and all who are caring for those in need. My grandson (6 years old) and his brother (13 years old) are still there and I know thier holiday will be made better by those who are giving so much this year. Granpa and I had to evacuate to a place far away because of medical problems but we pray everyday for them and thank God everyday for all the Santa's helpers.

God Bless You

This lady understands the true meaning of CHRISTMAS!!Hats off to her and her helpers, God Bless You All!!!!

GERT for PREZ !!!!!!!

I would like to commend the ladies of GERT. I am from the Baton Rouge area - My biggest fear during all of this tradegy is that people will forget too soon. There was such an outpouring of help, from all over the country, in the weeks directly following Katrina - but most of those affected in Southern Louisiana and the Gulf Coast will continue to need help for a long time. People do not understand what it means to lose EVERYTHING!!!! Not only do these people not have anything, but they have no means of getting anything - not only were there homes and material possessions destroyed, but also their jobs and livelihoods!! From what I see, the ladies of GERT, well, they just GET IT!! They understand that this help must be an ongoing mission, and not just stop after you write a check and drop it in the mail!! God Bless You GERT, and all others out there who are opening their hearts continuously!!

This is a wonderful story of good hearted people. Thank you for doing this work of love.

I had wanted to cut and paste the story to let others know about it but site wouldn't let me though I did download the photo and will share it.

I followed a link from MSNBC and I'm glad I did, it is unusual to find a heartwarming news story. God will bless you.

It's is great to see someone actually doing something instead of talking about it.

Maybe our Government could take a lesson from this lady

I only wish that the city planners don't take too long re-designing this smaller, more efficient communities because if they do, most of the $$$ donated, or allocated will be spent in "consultants" How much of the donations are being given directly to the affected people to relocate? as in buying a house, repairing,refurnishing, and just to get by until the businesses are able to re-open and provide jobs to the community. Why not give the jobs to the affected people instead of bringing all "experts" from the outside give the community incentives to come back such as jobs to help re-build their own city, they are not all invalids, or helpless. I saw some very healthy, strong young men rioting or just waiting around to be rescued. Give them some training and a job, please.

Thank you all so much for your kind comments. We aprreciate it very much. I am Margaret Raker of GERT MINISTRIES. We cannot do this without Christ. All glory and honor and praise goes to Jesus Christ. We have willing spirits, he provides the supplies for us to take. We are so blessed that he uses us to reach out and embrace others with his love. Please check out our web site at: www.gertministries.com
email: [email protected]
Again, Thanks
Blessings, Margaret

While the charity is wonderful, your explanation of it as the primary reason behind the unemployment paradox is, I think, misleading. It is very difficult to think about having a job when you don't have a house, or a permanent residence. How can a person look for, or expect to hold, a job when every day is a battle with FEMA, an insurance company, an employer, or some entity demanding a piece of paper that you no longer possess?

Many of the evacuees never received the initial $2000, and are still fighting to be recognized as having had a loss. Without property, FEMA trailers are just another luxury for which many must wait.

Thank goodness for those charities, for they are a ray of sunlight in this challenge. Without them, many of the evacuees would not be receiving the therapy they need. Thank goodness for the people who deliver meals first hand to the region, who can tell friends and family what they've seen. All of the men and women who come to help deserve commendations and our deepest thanks.

I was lucky. In the end, I kept my job, so didn't have to look. While I am certain some people are abusing the system, I don't envy the people who are just struggling to find an answer they can trust.

wonderful story of compassion and caring. The children are precious. I remember receiving a doll house for Christmas that was donated to our family. ......LITTLE CHILDREN,LAUGHING,PLAYING......SO QUICKLY ARE THEY GROWING.....AS TIME DOES PASS, YOU CAN'T GO BACK.....TO CATCH THE LOVE THAT THEN WAS GENTLY FLOWING........A LITTLE LOVE GIVEN......A LITTLE TIME TAKEN.......TO KNOW WHO YOU ARE......AND A NEW SELF AWAKEN..............

Wonderful example!
Inspire the leadership to act in good faith.

This story is a great idea and premise for a Christmas special next year. A perfect made for TV special. You couldn't have thought up this stuff. The good will shown by these people couldn't have come from the mind of a hollywood writer, but from real people in real life. It should be heart breaking for the rest of the country NOT to be able to go to the aid of the people in the gulf coast instead of complaining. This toy drive should and will keep the plight of these people in the fore front of everyones lives and continue to motivate continueing help. I belong to a church that is sending down missions every month till everyone in Mississippi gets the help they need. My christmas wish is that by next Christmas, peoples needs will be very small and everyone will get what they want for Christmas, not just what they need.

how wonderful! Our Sunday School class is headed down Sat. to bring a load of toys (and bikes)and do some work, too. We decided instead of our usual gift exchange, we would like to send some cheer to the coast.

We work with Margaret and we wanted to add a couple of comments because we are proud of what she has and is accomplishing. One person can make a difference. If there is anyone out there who has the funds to get Margaret a new camper, please do so. This is where she sets up her guerrilla operation and the article is correct in stating the tires are worn and the engine is wheezing. She left Michigan in a snow storm and returned to another snow storm. A true gaurdian angel

Thank God for people like Margaret and her family that want to do their part! God can use anyone who is willing to reachout with the Father's love and the compassion of Christ. We are so proud of Margaret. I am her pastor and I know her heart and her desire. She is the real deal! Pray for her RV as it needs tires and repair!

It is a treat to read some GOOD!!!! news.
May you be richly rewarded for your selfless service.

It is so nice to see good people doing good deads for all to see. Best wishes and a Merry Christmas to all..!

God bless Gert. I was down their with the National Guard right after Katrina hit, it is good to know people are still helping those in need.

I love people who put their money where there mouth
is! Is she for real? I sure hope so, I'm in.


Margaret is a great inspiration and a wonderful roll modle, if we all did the things God has asked us to do like she does, this world would be a much better place and I am proud to have her as my big sister.
I love you sis,

I was an insurance adjuster. I have been "on" hurricanes...nothing like this though.

I was in PASS CHRISTIAN about a month ago. A doctor who had "FLOOD INSURANCE" was told it was really "rising water" and therefore not covered. Keep after them. Photos of your house before, during, and after the storm will help support your claims.
Good luck.

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