Friday, February 15, 2008

Brian, Eddie, Sheli

Today was Brian Deubert's, Eddie Sherman's, and Sheli McNeill's last day with Hands On Gulf Coast. They all contributed immensely to the success of Hands On Gulf Coast during the course of their tenure with us.

Sheli joined us in April 2006, working quietly as a case manager, helping residents recover identity documents, get FEMA trailers, and get materials to rebuild their homes. Sheli was instrumental in preparing and executing the successful Guiding Light project in January 2007. After successfully tackling that challenge, Sheli stepped up to be the AmeriCorps Program Coordinator for Building. She worked tirelessly during her time with us.

Brian arrived in June 2006. He quickly began helping with the fledgling, ad hoc construction work Hands On was struggling to get into. Between various other volunteers, Brian helped roof houses, build Mr. Thornton's house, and work on Mr. George's. He was the Stud House leader when Guiding Light came. Under the tutelage of Eddie, Brian continued to grow in his chosen craft of carpentry.

Eddie arrived in September 2006. Brother of Dan Sherman, Eddie arrived for a couple weeks, but was immediately drawn into the culture and life of Hands On. He began by helping to build Mr. George's house, then managing the Bridge to Biloxi project in October 2006. Under his technical leadership, Hands On was able to prepare three houses for the Guiding Light team in early 2007. For the rest of the year, Eddie trained a team of AmeriCorps members dedicated to building homes along the Gulf Coast. When he left, 12 houses had been completely rebuilt.

The trio of Brian, Sheli, and Eddie shaped the Hands On Gulf Coast construction program into what it is today. They set high standards for craftmanship, quality, and attention to detail, which AmeriCorps construction members always strived to meet.

Thank you to each of you for your contribution to Hands On Gulf Coast and to the broader Gulf Coast community. Best of luck in your next endeavors and see you around Biloxi.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Thanks Hands On

Where to begin...
To avoid being entirely too sappy, this will be a quick blog.
It is the end of my official month anniversary at Hands On Gulf Coast and let me just tell you that the experience has been amazing. I am surrounded by caring, fun people in Hands On and the greater community. I would especially like to thank Miss Juanita and Dottie for taking on the mother roles and offer nothing but support and love to those around them.
I came to Hands On with very few expectations, I only knew it was the right thing to do. So far this belief only grows stronger. I have had the opportunity to become part of a community and challenge myself with a group of amazing people. How could I go wrong?
Since I've been in Biloxi, I've participated in two parades (receiving free fried chicken from D'Vines Soulfood in both), helped win the spirit award in a bed race, played with the kids at the Boys and Girls Club, celebrated Martin Luther King Day and Mardi Gras properly, and roller skated for the first time in 20 years (and yes, I had several people who were patient enough to hold my hands the entire time!). I can't believe how lucky I am.
Currently, I'm trying to wriggle my way in to a larger community and spread the Hands On goodness. This is one of the few times in my life that I can say I want to do more, I don't want to stop at good enough.
Tomorrow is my first day of Healthy Living classes for the 9 and 10 year olds at Boys and Girls Club. I have a feeling that this class will really challenge me and give me something to work towards. I'm ecstatic. I have so much to learn from the kids. And who knows, I might even inspire a healthier lifestyle in one or two of the kids.
No matter what happens, I am thankful to be on the Gulf Coast.
Here's to new friends, new experiences and a healthier Mississippi!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

1st Annual Mardi Gras Bed Race

This past Saturday, Hands On Gulf Coast participated in the 1st Annual, Mardi Gras Bed Race. It was an event sponsored by Walmart to raise money for the Salvation Army.

We fielded two teams on 200lb metal beds supplied by the Salvation Army. The beds were decorated in typical Hands On fashion, last minute and with ever was available. One bed had the sign, "Be Bold, Fight Mold". The other had me in it, holding onto some sort of strange bed parasol we found in the Spin Cycle.

The race itself was hillarious. There were all sorts of contraptions. Sprint, Keesler, the Police, the Firemen, and about a dozen other groups had a bed in the race. One of the cooler ones was from Landon Building (?). They built a home on a frame. The Air Force guys from Keesler had a well-designed bed with a bar designed to maximize the ease of pushing.

A couple groups hadn't hired the services of an engineer, so their beds fell apart mid-race. The troopers wound up carrying the pieces over the finish line.

Though we didn't win for being the fastest, we certainly did win for being the most spirited. Between the chant,
    When I say Hands On, you say 'Gulf Coast' ...
    Hands On! ... Gulf Coast!!
    Hands On!! ... Gulf Coast!! ....
repeated ad nauseum and "Be Bold! ... Fight Mold!! Be Bold! Fight Mold!!" there was little chance for anyone else to win.

Thanks to everyone who came out Saturday morning. Also a special thanks to Amanda and Fletcher who sat at a table with maccaroni and string to keep kids entertained on the Town Green. Here's to next year's winning team.