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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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BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- There’s Katrina, and then there’s Tish. Katrina’s force destroyed much of the Gulf Coast, but Tish Williams' energy is helping to rebuild it, or at least the part in her area of influence.

Head of the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce, Williams spends much of her day at an emergency office set up to help business owners rebuild, helping people in person or over the phone and, in our case, helping out-of-town reporters find the right people for the stories they're working on.

But you’ll also find her at ribbon cuttings, the chamber’s weekly after-hours event and at Bay St. Louis and Waveland town meetings. At a recent one, she was one of the last to leave, cleaning up after the audience.

After another meeting, she rushed over to a restaurant to join her husband to celebrate her twin daughters' ninth birthday. “Then I stayed up until midnight to prepare for a slumber party for 15 girls” the next day, she says.

Their home was among those destroyed, and the Williams are living in a home that belongs to friends who moved out. Williams figured the slumber party would be great for the other kids, who are living in trailers.

“I end my day just counting my blessings,” she says.

She starts to choke up when recalling all the donations from Chambers of Commerce across the country that poured in after the storm. And she wonders why she wasn’t more active in helping others before Katrina hit.

“Have I been asleep when tragedies struck other communities?” she wonders aloud.

Once Hancock County has recovered, she vows, “We’re going to be ready to jump in our cars to help others.”


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This is a wonderful article. I've been looking for a church in Mississippi that would accept donations for people trying to rebuild. We live in NE Colorado and have been through three floods up here, but nothing near as bad as you all have experienced. God bless. Names of towns with working rebuilders would be of great help. I'm tired of the Red Cross and Habitat, who, although good, have a hard time organizing what they have (in my opinion).

Thank you, Tish. And to Kathryn of Colorado, Money for building supplies and labor is exactly what people need. And it needs to go directly into the hands of families who are getting little or no help from there insurance companies. I know that St Roase de Lima Church survived relatively well and is operating a center for food and clothing. They could surely identify a family or two who hve been tearing out the soggy interior of a frame but have no materials for the rebuild. I will contact one of my brothers down there to get a phone number or E-mail info. Fortunately for us, with the help of volunteers, some continuing income, and the efforts of Virginia neighbors,friends and relatives, our several family houses have been gutted and are slowly getting rewired and interior walls installed. This will be a long process for all. Thank you Colorado!

I have known Tish for years. In fact, she is my step mother-in-law. I have always admired her strength and conviction, which was never more evident than in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She and George lost everything, but they had each other, and I never heard them complain about their own personal loss. Even without electricity in the home they were staying, the first course of action was how to coordinate meetings with people in charge and how to rebuild their community.

It's nice to know that others recognize what I've seen all along. Hurricane Katrina was a devastating catastrophe, but Tish Williams is a force to be reckoned with!

I am a poice officer who just came back from about three weeks of work in Long Beach Ms. Finally we are seeing a little news about some place other than New Orleans. Why has the news media ignored the hardest hit areas? All people hear about is New Orleans. They had flooding. The people along the Gulf were totally devastated, literally blown away. Reporters: get in your cars and drive down there and experience the skeletons of buldings, the endless miles of cement slabs, foundations, and mounds of debris. Thousands of trees bent and broken decorated in plastic bags and clothing, the smell of sewage and rotting organic material all around you. Walk through former apartment complexes where buildings with eight apartments in them were picked up and thrown like toys. Where the wind eerily slams doors and flaps vinyl siding, the deafening sound of smoke detectors constantly beeping. They are still recoving bodies in whole under piles of debris, and in part that wash up on the beach. Go to the shelters where you will see the people walking around in donated clothing with thousand yard stares that have lost everything and talk to them about what happened to them. I heard a hundred stories often incredulous demonstrations of survival, courage, and just plan luck. Also of death. It is amazing how random death can be. The days immediately after the storm where rescue groups risked life and limb to locate and recover people and bodies. The waves of looters flowing into the devastation stealing anything they could carry away. Now there is the aftermath. The ying and yang of great people flowing into the area and actually selflessly helping, and the vultures that arrive to pick at the left overs. Church groups, the Red Cross, and countless others who are really making a difference. Folks are there from all over the country. Go to the circus tent on Rt. 90 between Long Beach and Pass Christian where breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served every day. Leave a donation as that is all they work on. It is also a point of delivery for donated clothing and other items. It is one example and a place to meet with these wonderfull people. Unfortunatley the vultures are well represented in the area as well. Looters who just don't see the harm in taking jewelry, cars, even the copper and other metals left in the miles of rubbish. Crooked contractors that do sub-standard work, or take down payments and do no work at all. The scum that shows up for free stuff from all over the place taking from those who really need it. I could go on and on. I probably have. You folks are not doing your job if you continue to remain silent to the plight of these people. A flight with a plane or a helicopter at low level with a camera pointed down along the coast would begin to show the scope of the destruction. Get out there for crying out loud and tell the story!!

more people like Tish....would be wonderful!

Members of my sister in-law's church (Calif) had her get in touch with us and get the names of some families they could adopt. We suggested Perlington as we knew how badly that area had been hit and we had a friend that had a camp there. In this way we were able to send the names of some people. The church group also felt it would be better to reach out directly instead of going through Red Cross etc. There are so many people across this country or even the world who would like to help but just don't want to continue sending $$$$ to charities that you have no idea how and who really gets the help. There has got to be a better method, not everyone can come here and personally help.

these type of people come out of the woodwork in times of need. unassumung and geting the job done.It makes us wonder what is wrong with the rest of us and the world.


My home church in Bay St. Louis is First Baptist, right on Main St. There are a lot of people working out of there. They'd be glad to help get articles distributed throughout the community. In fact, on Dec. 8 begins "8 days of Hope" with (Hopefully) hundreds of volunteers coming in to work.

Great story!!! I don't know if Tish is responsible, but there is a great interview in a magazine called "BARK" about pets who survived Katrina. Judy English who is from Waveland was interviewed. She had to swim out of the motel with her dog clinging to her. There is also a picture of her with her dog. her dogs name is Bandit. It's in the Winter issue with a dog on the cover from New Orleans.

Please continue to help these people. It gets COLD down there in the winter,freezes quite often. Ever been camping in 32 degree weather?

Father Sebastian
St. Rose de Lima
301 South Necaise Ave.
Bay St. Louis, MS 39520
Tel: 228-467-7347
Fax: 228-467-7740
Email: [email protected]

St. Rose de Lima is one of the few church buildings that can be used in the area. They have made it a shelter and distribution for food, clothing, water, etc and many people are turning to the church since government agencies are slow in responding.

Please contact Father Sebastian if you can help! Wonderful man!

Thank you,
Diane Reynolds

I live in Long Beach, Mississippi. We were hit very hard by Hurricane Katrina. My children and I, prior to Hurricane Katrina, were renting a home which sustained some damage. We felt we "survived" - only to be told by my landlord that he would like to put the house on the market. He needed to "strike" while the iron was hot. My children and I have been living in Long Beach for the past 9 years and have made it our home. We would never dream of leaving - even after Hurricane Katrina took our community apart. There are no rental properties in Long Beach and at the present time - do not know if I can afford to purchase a home. In essence, we survived Hurricane Katrina - only to find ourselves homeless. So please - if you can - please don't forget people on the Gulf Coast. We have lost our beautiful community and continue to be subjected to further loss. TISH IS A WONDERFUL PERSON AS ARE MANY WHO LIVE ON THE GULF COAST.

I live in Verona,Va and I am the faculty advisor to a college SIFe team located at Blue Rdige community College. We are coming to the Ocean Spring, St Louis Bay area with the goods we have collected through our stuff-a-bus campaign but want to leave Mississippi with a small business that we can adopt and help find it the resources to come back after this disaster. We need to know how to get in touch with a person like Tish or anyone else in the area who can locate a merchant or sole-proprietor we can "adopt" Email [email protected]

To Brad, who wrote the previous email. My daughter has been to Bay St Louis and we are returning this Wednesday, to help in any way we can. She echoed your sentiments exactly. I live near Punta Gorda Fla. hard hit last year by Charley and there is a FEMA village right on rte 75. HUNDREDS of Fema trailers and MANY sitting empty. It made me sick to see this. What is going on with FEMA? Why can't these trailers be transported by someone? The last several weeks I have been reading this website to catch me up on what is going on down there, so I might be prepared when I go on Wednesday(my daughter says I could never be prepared). My heart is broken for all of you. God Bless you all...

For the many years my family has known, loved and admired Tish Haas Williams, I've never known her to have a "job" - only "campaigns"! And she has never lost a campaign. Few leaders have the 110% committment and determination that Tish has always shown. Hancock County is lucky to have her to lead the way through recovery. She'll set a high bar for the other leaders! God speed, Tish. You make us all proud. Kathleen Simpson Young speaking for the Simpson Family of Pass Christian, Mississippi

my heart goes out to all in the Gulf area. I was stationed with my husband in Gulfport Mississippi 1995-1998. We lived in Pass Christian, Gulfport, and Long Beach. I have donated monies to different Katrina funds and yes it is appauling how the current Administration is dealing with this matter... Exactly what I said "dealing" These are people, not numbers.. Please Help our People!!!

Please Help us if you can I know we are poor no one will HELP us
We are from North Hancock County and we lost everything They said on the news that ya'll had bought some people Mobile homes the cheapest one that I can get is 73,000.00 so my over size wheel chair would fit in. Here is Mobile's information (Azalea mobile homes talk to Pamela Fairley 1-866-528-8340 or 1-601-528-5969)
DAMAGED BY DISASTER (HURRICANE KATRINA) HAIL/RAIN/WIND/ DRIVEN RAIN, TORNADO/WIND) UNQUOTE. Governor Haley Barbour E-mail me back and said he was sorry but he could not help us because the damage was not caused by storm-surge. Not Tornado's I know that's not true I lived through Hurricane Camille! That's not fair. I told them even a mobile home we've lost my house and everything.They won't pay for tornado's all other state's and GOVERNOR do why do we that's what else hurricane's do yes even Katrina Please help me & my husband we are handicapped, disabled & sick, I don't know what we would do without our ex-daughter-in law "GOD BLESS HER" she helps us with everything & our 7 year old grandson lives with us too I think he keep us all going he is just a joy! I'm in a wheelchair I have multiple sclerosis. We have got a multitude of thing wrong with us! Then we got hit by hurricane Katrina & lost everything & no-one will help us it's like we don't even matter they say There's nothing they can do we just have too much damage they know they can get away with it because we are sick handicapped & poor. The Inspectors report says the damaged was caused by and I quote (hail/rain/wind driven rain - tornado & wind. He also said my home was damaged by the disaster) unquote. I love Mississippi But it looks like I'm going to be homeless! We had no Ins. because we could not afford it! We get about 1,700. A month our medicine takes most of that were staying on our own land (1 acres) in my son's mobile home 16 x 80 he is letting us stay in his mobile home. He took the money he got from FEMA $5.300.00 and he took all of his saving's $4000. To fix his mobile home two pine trees had cut it half into he fixed what he could but he ran out of money so we have plywood for windows it needs a lot more work but God bless him he is letting us live in it. But we can't take his home forever. Please help us we don't have a home or money to rebuild we need a grant I know it is a lot to ask for. But, I have talked to people that does not need it but got it anyway. We have never asked for a hand out we always worked for what we have. But, we cannot help it we are that sick handicapped and poor! My son drives big trucks he is out of a job right now he has a perfect driving record CDL license but no-one is hiring right now. We have made him homeless he just stay's with friend's. But, we feel so bad because we live in his home. What are we supposed to do? Our home collapsed & even the slab is broken we need someone to help us we have never ask for help before but we really need the grant they are giving people to rebuild $150.000. God knows we are good people. That's what keeps us going! I believe God will help us! We worked for everything we had until my husband fell & broke his back in 1993 he stayed bed ridden for about 2 years he found Dr. Joe Jackson he said he could help him walk again all the others Doctor's said he would not walk again. Dr. Joe Jackson healed him with medicine, therapy, body & Spirit and a lot of help from God he can walk again. It was in 1990's He got hit by a truck some boys who ran a stop sign and broke a bone in My husband's neck he was bed ridden another year he can walk again now not good but he can it also crushed his left side broke every rib cut half of his face off broke the orbit of his eye blood clot on his heart & a lot of other things my son was also in the truck with my husband our son's injury's were internal bleeding and crushed his finger after 4 operation's he still can't use bend or use his finger eye witness said other boys were making about 90 miles an hour when they ran the stop sign. When Gary seen he could not miss the truck Eric (our son said) his Dad turned his truck so he would take the full impact so it would not kill our son that's a real parent! Gary (this was his second head injury he has long & short term memory loss) he stay's in constancy pain.
So do I it is not an easy cross to bare but we try to stay positive. I got sick 2001 cancer & still we did not ask for a hand out I got really sick after the operation they could not figure it out what was wrong. I had multiple sclerosis & my liver was dying I've never drank alcohol in my life they say it is herity I was told my Mom had just dyed of the same thing few months earlier she was in her early 60's (My Mom was a wonderful person everyone loved her she will never be forgotten) she never drank either, It also give you diabetes yes I also have it so did she never drank a drop of alcohol the liver Dr. Srinivas & the liver transplant Dr. Vantniel from Mi. said it is herity & a transplant will not help. All I'm asking for is my is a home, back on my own land no I'm begging you! If anyone can help us please let us know "GOD BLESS YOU" The homeless in Mississippi Louisiana & The Gulf Coast.! (We have been forgotten but we have found out people like us don't count! That's not fair God loves us too!)
Sincerely Yours,
Amanda, Gary, Angela and Brennen Lee
AGES: 46 52 29 8
Gary & Amanda Lee
Address: 6173 Jordan Road
Perkinston, Ms.
but we live in North/HancockCounty
North Hancock County/Necaise

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