Local Katrina Volunteers Remember Recovery Efforts

By: Althea Paul
By: Althea Paul

August 29, 2006

After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, many people jumped at the chance to help victims in that area. That includes quite a number of people from Charlottesville, and some are still making an effort today.

For Barbara Shifflett, the devastation that Hurricane Katrina caused along the Gulf Coast is burned in her brain. "It was as if a bomb had gone off and totally destroyed everything," she said.

It's one of the reasons the retired nurse has visited the ravaged city of Pearlington, Mississippi over 20 times, helping to build shelters for people with the Building Goodness Foundation.

"When you come home, you're just haunted by the images you see, and...once you go once, you really have to keep going back, because the need is so great," said Shifflett.

Shifflett first took a trip to Mississippi about a week after Katrina hit.

Dr. Greg Gelburd also volunteered at a makeshift clinic.

Since then, Dr. Gelburd has been back in February to do work in New Orleans and parts of Mississippi.

Both he and Shifflett, who just returned from Pearlington a few weeks ago, say although there has been some progress within the past year, there is a lot of work still needed.

"There was very little in the way of reconstruction. So basically, the situation was pretty close to the same that it was in September. There were a few trailers that were up that people were staying in, mostly FEMA trailers, but there was not any rebuilding yet going on," said Dr. Gelburd.

"They're still waiting to move debris out and every time you go it looks better, but...if you went for the first time now, you would think the hurricane had happened yesterday," said Shifflett.

Unfortunately, they say it will take years before things are back to normal.

"It's that much more sad that a year later, people are still pretty much in the same situation. The biggest difference now is that they're completely burned out," said Dr. Gelburd.

The volunteers said they're not too surprised by the progress in the Gulf Coast since things were slow-moving in the beginning.

Shifflett also said she will continue to help out in the Gulf Coast. For more information on the Building Goodness foundation, visit www.buildinggoodness.org.


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