Ten families to be welcomed into restored homes

Ten east Biloxi families will become the first of nearly two dozen families who will be officially welcomed into homes that were restored by hundreds of volunteers from Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia.

A “Welcome Home to East Biloxi” celebration will be held Wednesday at 4 p.m. on Strangi Avenue near Division Street, near one of the restored homes. Volunteers will be recognized, and the Biloxi Mullet Brigade will be on hand serving free fried fish.

The Arlington-based Habitat group and Lord of Life Lutheran Church led a relief team to Biloxi on Sept. 8, days after Katrina devastated the city. In their first month, the volunteers operated a free clinic and distribution point at Bethel Lutheran Church on Pass Road.

Volunteers soon began concentrating efforts in east Biloxi, where more than a hundred workers “mucked out” nearly two dozen homes by day and slept in temporary quarters at Bethel Lutheran by night.

“The team quickly realized that most of the families they were helping would not be able to afford to rebuild and return to their homes,” said Bart Tucker, a Burke, Va., visitor. “They felt loudly and clearly called to return to Biloxi to restore hope to these damaged lives and homes. And return they did.

“The community of Northern Virginia responded generously with donations to begin rebuilding. Armed with a vision of restoring hope in East Biloxi, the team returned in late October and began rebuilding three homes. And they returned again in January, March and May each time with more volunteers and working on more homes.”

The team focused on flooded homes that had been gutted. On Wednesday, the first 10 will be unveiled, while six other homes are being restored, and major improvements have been previously completed on another five.

Said Tucker: “The exciting result for many of the homes that pre-date World War II is that they now they have 2006 interiors.”

Mayor A.J. Holloway, who will join North Virginia leaders and Biloxi Councilmembers George Lawrence and Bill Stallworth at the Wednesday afternoon ceremony, said the city is thankful for the efforts.

“Our friends from North Virginia have been tirelessly working behind the scenes to get things done,” Holloway said. “They’ve been doing it under the most difficult of conditions, just like the rest of us, but they’ve come from far away and brought hope to many families. The people of Biloxi will be eternally grateful.”

To see an invitation for the ceremony Wednesday, click here.

To visit the web site for Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia, click here.