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Southern Pines Group Lends Helping Hand To Katrina-Ravaged Town

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BAY ST. LOUIS, MISS., — In the middle of a wasteland, Holly Carpenter's sons ride their bikes on a concrete slab that used to be the foundation of their home.

Their home in the small town of Bay St. Louis, Miss., was one of about 4,000 there that was either destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Katrina nearly six months ago.

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    Now, the family of five lives in a cramped trailer provided to them by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    Normalcy is something that's hard for them to come by. They can't afford to rebuild. They can't afford to move.

    "To me, I feel like I'm not doing (my children) justice by not having a house, but there's nothing I can do," Carpenter said.

    About two-thirds of the town's 8,200 residents -- many who are children -- have returned to what Carpenter says is dangerous debris and rats all around them.

    With the Army Corps of Engineers estimating that it will be at least June before it is able to clear all the debris, people in the small town fear that they will be forgotten.

    For all intensive purposes, Bay Saint Louis Mayor Eddie Farve says that his town was "wiped off the map." Recovery has been slow as federal aid barely trickles in.

    The town must rebuild everything from roads to homes. And while most children are back in makeshift schools, there are still few safe places for them to play.

    Nearly 800 miles from Bay St. Louis, in Southern Pines, N.C.,

    Moore Friends for Mississippi

    is planning to restore a public park in the Katrina-ravaged town.

    "We wanted very specifically to meet the needs of the people of Bay Saint Louis, not what we thought they might need," said Robert Boone, a vice president of a local hospital in Southern Pines.

    With all of the other needs, a park may sound trivial, but the goal is hopefully to restore some normalcy to people's lives, especially to the children's.

    "The children are the ones we're going to think of," said Bay St. Louis Parks and Recreation Director Gus McKay. "We have to have the children back with their normalcy. This is part of their normalcy."

    Since "adopting" the town last September, the group of volunteers has sent supplies to Bay St. Louis -- to the town, its local hospital and schools.

    The group has also raised $80,000 in donations to landscape the park and to buy new playground equipment. Members hope to get volunteers from North Carolina to do the actual work.

    "For (the town of Bay Saint Louis) to come back, it's going to take years," said Southern Pines Mayor Frank Quis. "They need to know people outside their community are with them for the long-haul."

    And that's exactly the kind of help people in Bay Saint Louis are hoping for.


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