Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Americorp Staying

AmeriCorps pledges two more years of support in Hancock Co.

By DWAYNE BREMERSep 6, 2006, 09:13

One of the largest volunteer groups in Hancock County has pledged two more years of support to the community. Officials of AmeriCorps West Senica N.Y. branch said last week they are committed to helping residents in Hancock County return to their homes, and being here has made them aware of the continued need for their assistance.
"If I would have not been here in November, then I would not have the passion to stay," Director Mark Lazzara said.
AmeriCorps members from around the country will be assisting Hancock County residents for two more years.


Pictured are some of the volunteers helping in the area. Dan Kivel, second from left, tragically drowned near St. Charles Street in May. Fellow volunteers have said his death has given them inspiration and a special bond with the community.
Over the past year, more than 1,000 volunteers have passed through St. Rose De Lima Church in Bay St. Louis, with more than 150 being AmeriCorps members, Lazzarra said. AmeriCorps is a volunteer group made up mostly of college-aged-youths from across the country. The West Senica group has served Bay St. Louis, while other AmeriCorps teams have been stationed at the former Morrell Camp in Waveland, and at the Hancock County Emergency Operations Center in Kiln.Volunteers can spend from one week to six months in the area, he said.
Most of the volunteer work done by AmeriCorps members has been in helping rebuild homes in the area. "This is the right thing to do," he said. "We don't do this for any glory, we just want to help people get in their homes."
He said his group feels a special bond with the community, one that was strengthened with the tragic death of volunteer Dan Kivel in May.
"It is still emotional to talk about," he said. "We just really feel connected towards Bay St. Louis.
"Some of the volunteers have signed up to come back to the area, after going home for the summer.
"This is like a second home," Michele Kmentt said. "This is really personal to me, it hits my heart."
Other volunteers see progress, but they say the job is far from done, and the government help is moving too slow.
"It is gratifying, but frustrating at the same time," Mike Rechtien said. "I find myself having to find new goals, I can only imagine what the people feel."
© 2005 Bay St. Louis Newspapers, Inc.

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