Heritage UMC celebrates rebuilt home


By Leigh Coleman
The Sun Herald

A Biloxi home, rebuilt by hundreds of volunteers from throughout the nation, was dedicated Oct. 26 with a welcome home party and a house blessing by Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church of Mississippi.

Hurricane Katrina destroyed the three-bedroom home of Joe and Milcy Smith. The couple said they had no hope of rebuilding until Heritage United Methodist Church in D'Iberville stepped in to help.

"I was not able to do any of this by myself," said Joe Smith, the homeowner. "Some things this big you just cannot do by yourself, and it seemed hopeless. Katrina wiped away our roof and the entire side of the house. Now we have a whole new house. It is a blessing indeed."

Joe, 69, and Milcy, 73, bought their Biloxi home in 1973. They have been living with relatives since Katrina.

For more than a year, Heritage United Methodist Church has housed volunteers from throughout the nation to help the couple rebuild.

"We had so many problems at first with the city to just get a building permit, but the church helped us with that, too," said Milcy Smith.

The volunteers and the church took the task a step further and purchased a new refrigerator, washer and dryer, microwave oven, dishwasher and a new sewage system for the couple.

"These volunteers came from all over, including Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana and New York," said the Rev. David Cumbest, pastor of Heritage United Methodist Church in D'Iberville.

"Since Katrina we have helped 750 families move back into their homes with the help of about 28,000 volunteers. This has been a big project, and we are still not finished helping other displaced families," he said.

Joe and Milcy Smith said they will be ready to move into their home in about two weeks.

"When I saw the house after the storm I started to recruit volunteers from across the country and told them if you want a challenge, this is a big one. All of the volunteers who have helped with this effort love a challenge," said Sheila Gillies, project manager for the Smiths' home.

The couple said they will still need to find some furniture as most of their belongings did not make it through the storm.

Still on the wish list are a couch, kitchen table, living room furniture, chairs and a few odds and ends for their new home.

"Heritage United Methodist Church has played a part of excellence during the Katrina response efforts," said Ward. "They have been a shining star for all of us."

To donate household items and furniture to the Smith family, call 228-594-1520.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 27 issue of the “Sun Herald” newspaper.