Reputation means more work for McComb mission


By Woody Woodrick

Advocate Editor

MCCOMB — Soon after Hurricane Katrina’s winds blew through Southwest Mississippi, St. Andrew’s Mission built a reputation for getting things done.

The United Methodist–related organization helped people get trees off roofs, find shelter, find food and met other needs.

All that work has led to the mission getting more, well, work.

St. Andrew’s Mission will handle the fiscal responsibilities for the Southwest Mississippi Recovery Network (SMRN), the group that will organize long-term recovery in Pike, Walthall, Lincoln, Lawrence and Amite counties.

“Our reputation for getting things done has been helpful in bringing in a lot of resources,” said Director Judy Sibley. “(Southwest Mississippi Recovery Network) will function as a means of pulling people around a table to coordinate resources coming into the community so as not to waste those resources.”

And lots of resources will be needed over the next two years, the estimated time the five counties will need to regain some sense of normalcy.

Sibley said house-to-house needs assessment is scheduled to begin March 8.

She said 20 volunteers are needed to help with that survey and then even more will be needed for case management. Case workers will be teamed with managers trained by United Methodist Committee on Relief to provide services families and individuals need.

In addition to volunteers, Sibley said the group will need materials and cash. She said one estimate indicates rebuilding the five counties could cost $24 million.

After the storm hit Aug. 29, Sibley said 35,000 people from the five counties registered with the Federal Emergency Managements Authority. She expects 10 percent of those people, some 3,500, to have long-term, unmet needs.

“If I told most people that there would be 3,500 people in the area who still had unmet needs, they would say there couldn’t possibly be (that many),” Sibley said. “We look good. An awful lot of people mistakenly feel that so much money has flowed in that there can’t still be needs unmet. I don’t believe most people understand that we are yet to see the emotional and mental health needs that are going to come forward.”

Meanwhile, she said 250 people are still living in motels in the area, 55 families are in FEMA trailers at Percy Quinn State Park and a number of people are living with friends and relatives in the area.

“Most people have the trees off their homes,” Sibley said. “The blue roofs are still around. Most people are ready for the long-term recovery process.”

As in other areas of the state, Sibley said the faith community has led the way in storm recovery. She cited Centenary UMC in McComb along with groups from other denominations. Sibley also said public officials in Southwest Mississippi have done a good job communicating about who is doing or needs what, but faith organizations have been intimately involved. The Disciples of Christ donated $10,000 in seed money for SMRN, for example.