WAVELAND, Miss. Youth in the Birmingham Alabama Stake traveled here July 7-8 to do service. In the process, they took over the work projects of the Gulfport Mississippi Stake youth, allowing them a well-deserved break from 11 months of clean-up, and giving them time to attend a traditional youth conference of seminars and activities. The Gulfport stake boundaries include some of areas most hard-hit by Hurricane Katrina.
The Birmingham youth and leaders, tools in hand, repaired roofs and installed drywall at the homes of five LDS families in Bay St. Louis, Waveland, and Gulfport.
Among these was the home of Waveland Ward members Gerard and Shannon Gelinas and their four children; the home had been gutted by 12 feet of water from the storm surge that came ashore with the hurricane. As a dozen volunteers from Birmingham helped Brother Gelinas with roofing and drywall, he commented on their effort: "It's a wonderful blessing for us that these youth would give up a summer weekend to come and help."
Another contingent of Alabama volunteers that included stake President Douglas Bennett worked at the home of Rhonda Sones in this community. Sister Sones was living in a trailer provided by the government. The home where she raised six children needed an all-new interior after seven feet of water from nearby Bayou La Croix flooded the house.
After a full day's work the Alabama group joined the Mississippi youth at the Gulfport stake youth conference dance Saturday night with the theme: "Arise and Shine Forth . . . We've Weathered the Storm!" There were cheers of appreciation from the Gulfport youth when the rock anthem "Sweet Home Alabama" was dedicated to the visiting Birmingham youth.
Gulfport stake President Robert Garrett said the influx of youth from Alabama was very encouraging for the disaster-depleted numbers of Gulfport youth. Both groups of youth were then housed for the night at the homes of Gulfport stake members. The Birmingham group concluded their conference Sunday morning with a sacrament and testimony meeting at the Gulfport stake center.
Speaking at the service was President Daniel Smith, 1st Counselor in the Gulfport Stake Presidency. "We had need for folks to come back because the work was not finished. Your work has put several people months ahead," he said. "Helping each other is truly the Gospel in action."
Also speaking at the meeting was Sister Pattie Necaise, Gulfport Stake Young Women's President. To the Birmingham youth she said, "I look in your faces and know you are angels sent from God."
During the testimony portion of the meeting many Birmingham youth expressed gratitude for the experiences of the unique three-day conference. "I like to serve," said Teacher John Patterson; "When you're focused on helping others you're not thinking of yourself," added Laurel Jill Fleming
And from Mia Maid Rachel Norris: "I am grateful for the people who made us feel needed and welcome."