Group will help ongoing Katrina cleanup

Once a beach-side vacation spot, Bay St. Louis, Miss., still is cleaning up and rebuilding after the devastation Hurricane Katrina left behind in 2005.

The community there has not been forgotten by a Grand Junction church group that will spend its spring break March 9 to 13 in Bay St. Louis from, doing whatever it can to help the town out.

“I’m personally up for everything,” Demi Ruder, 14, said. “I’d be willing to spend three days scooping mud if it would improve someone’s life.”

Ruder said she thinks most of her peers will probably sit at home and watch television during their spring breaks.

The group of five from Church of the Nativity — Ruder and her mother, Lori Ruder; brothers Andy and Brian Kucel; and Susan Wiseman — do not know what projects they will work on in Bay St. Louis. They’ll get their assignments from Mission on the Bay, a volunteer organization and outreach program of the Christ Episcopal Church in Bay St. Louis, once they get there.

“It’s more of an adventure that way,” said Andy Kucel, 20. “I’m cool with that.”

After Sept. 11, 2001, Wiseman, who works in the attendance office at Fruita Monument High School, said she signed up to be a Red Cross volunteer. Three weeks after Katrina, she was dispatched to Mississippi.

Since then, she’s made five mission trips to Mississippi.

“Things are improving each year, but there’s still room for help,” she said, adding that 2,000 people still live in Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers along the Mississippi coast.

“It has been said that the town of Bay St. Louis was the epicenter of the storm,” Wiseman said.

A wave 35 feet high crashed into the town. Houses were washed away, buildings were destroyed and people lost their lives, she said.

Wiseman said she was told that more than 1,000 volunteers will make the trek to Bay St. Louis to help rebuild during spring break.

“It’s nice, given our economy, that people are still able to look beyond themselves,” Lori Ruder said.

Through a fundraiser at Church of the Nativity called Hire Our Youth, the local group was able to raise money to go to Mississippi. They plan to continue fundraising for another mission trip.

Those interested in helping can call Tom Kucel at 234-4866.


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