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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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At the request of our hosts, we can only describe where we are as an “undisclosed location” in Hancock County.

That’s because organizers of a Christmas toy drive fear being swamped by locals if word gets out before they’re ready to bring parents in.

Thousands of toys in hundreds of boxes have been shipped from Florida, California and states in between after dozens of individuals, churches and other groups in Lakeshore organized to help the children of this devastated community, which is adjacent to Waveland. The donors include churches, charities and individuals.

So generous has been the response that shelves and even bike racks have been built to stock the goodies. And another six shipments were expected in the next few days

“We wanted to make it like Wal-Mart,” says Pam Lackey, a volunteer from Canton, Ga., who is the "Christmas coordinator" for the Lakeshore Baptist Church.

The plan is to begin shuttling parents to the secret site within a few days so they can then “lay away” gifts for their children. Parents also will receive a Christmas tree, a wreath, gift cards and, on the 23rd, a ham with all the trimmings.

Volunteers are helping move the toys from trucks to the shelves, including some two dozen honor students from Wisconsin on the day we visited.

Lackey likes to tell of one woman in Morrow, Ga., who calls weekly to see what’s needed. She has told her children she doesn’t want Christmas gifts, Lackey says, and has instructed them to instead send gifts to the Lakeshore drive.

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This is so wonderful, god bless all those people who are volunteering and donating.

Good job everyone

where can we send stuff to?

One of those two dozen kids is mine, but I'd claim the lot of them! Freedom High School students responded to help with clean up after the Red River Valley flooding in 1997 too. Our teachers,school district and community believe that these experiences are transformative; education at its BEST! Way to Go, Freedom! Proud to be Katie's Mom.

This is wonderful, so many people have donated from the heart, however, those of us who have had to use our savings to restore our homes, while the bank hold our insurance money, do not have anything left to purchase gifts for our children.How do we register, every site I visit tells me to donate, donate, donate - but how do I apply for my two small children to receive just something simple, like maybe a new bike that was lost in the storm.

This is amazing. Those high schoolers who are volunteering are having a life-changing experience; good for them. I'm wondering if it's still possible to contribute to this, and how to go about doing so.

is there anywhere they are collecting donations like this for adults? (housewares, appliances, clothes, etc)


I'm extremely touched by these volunteers, and the organizations that donated these items, because of this, I am reminded to spread my kindness to others in need during this holiday season.


My eye fill with tears of happiness knowing that so many people are helping to make Christmas special for those who are devastated by Katrinia. I know God is smiling on everyone who has stepped up to make all of this possible.

Having seen some of the devastation first hand and heard the awful problems people are having with their insurance companies, I think this is one of the greatest things being done for these families. Many of these people do not have the time or money to go shopping. Without these generous donations there would be many heartbroken children on Christmas morning when Santa didn't come.

This story is genuine proof that Americans do not have "Katrina Fatigue". I think that Americans should be proud that we have come together and have contributed our time, money and resources to this horrific tragedy. I know in my heart that we will continue to do so as long as needed.

It brings a tear to my eye to see all those helping those in need! Without all the help of the Freedom kids and the many others, Christmas wouldn't be the same. At least now the families will have something to brighten their holiday. I am proud to say I am a Freedom alumni as well as a proud brother to one of the volunteers to something with such a great cause!!

Thank God that the donators and volunteers are color blind, unlike our country's leader!

As a freshman in college, this story touches me. We see alot of talk today on how "big companies" should donate, its nice to see that everyone can help.

Best wishes
Merry Christmas

How can you donate,money to help this cause? This is so great and God Bless them all.

It is just a blessing to know that so many people still care about others. It is God's will will for his people to help the unfortunate. And right I know that there is a big smile on his face. Congratulations!

For info. on the Lakeshore Christmas project, you may visit www.rebuildlakeshore.com. The Christmas store will be open to parents next Friday, 12/9. All gifts you wish to donate MUST be shipped THIS WEEKEND. Many gift cards are still needed, so please contribute if you can so that each of these children/teenagers will get something for Christmas.Contact info. for Pam Lackey is on the website.

I am so proud to live in America.Everyone involved in this powerful testimony of love for one another will surely be blessed. And now abideth faith,hope,charity,these three;but the greatest of these is charity-LOVE!
God Bless

I did a little digging; the deadline for sending donated items was Dec 1. However, the community (and plenty of others) is in need of a great deal of materials and money. The church in this article has a website set up with lots of info: http://rebuildlakeshore.com/index.php

Brought tears to my eyes, As long as we continue to love and support each other, we will live through this also

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Martin Luther King.

These students and everyone else who has contributed time and money to help those in need are enriching not only the life they live but the lives of others. It is a testiment to the character of the young people who will someday lead this country.

I am touched by the generosity, but let us not forget that there are those in need in our own hometowns, your neighbor, your coworker may be in need but too embarassed to let it be known. I am going to give at home since I have everything that I need..Merry Christmas, He is the Reason for the Season.

Our daughter is one of the young ladies in this picture and to say WE ARE SO PROUD does not give the emotion in our hearts adequate justice. For the last few months, these students and teachers have worked diligently to make this trip a reality and will soon return to the open arms of parents, family and friends. I believe their greatest reward, amidst all of the thanks and praise they have received, will be their own personal pride, in knowing and remembering for the rest of their lives, that they have made a difference in the lives of others. Kudos to Freedom High School...we can't wait to see you and we can't wait to hear your stories.

GREAT JOB!! My heart goes out to all the families who lost everything due to these devestating hurricanes, but those kids also deserve a hand as well. They are going to make many children happy...Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Years. God Bless you, and keep you all safe this time of year.

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