Sunday, August 27, 2006

First Annual Volunteer Reunion

About 80 volunteers and a few local residents gathered yesterday at the home of Susie Sharp, on Hwy. 90, to commemorate the first anniversary of Katrina and to celebrate a year of cooperative and productive volunteerism in Pearlington.

It was a great night, punctuated by outstanding southern cooking, great music and song, as well as an opportunity for renewed friendships and the networking that has marked our year together. Volunteers from all over returned to Pearlington to share our common experiences and to thank the people of Pearlington for the opportunity to serve.

Susie and Pam Kirkland produced, as usual, an amazing meal of jambalaya, Swedish meatballs and BBQ smokies; salads galore and desserts to die for - including one called Death by Chocolate. Randy Turpin manned the grill and the boil pots and expertly delivered a good ole-fashioned Mississippi shrimp and crab boil, filled with whole vegetables and Mississippi’s famous Double-D Sausage. Miss Anne, the Karaoke Queen of Pearlington, was on hand to spin disks and to provide us with a sound system, enabling many of the volunteers to emotionally address the crowd about their personal and group experiences over the past year.

Laughter and tears abounded as some of the original volunteers from early September attended, some making surprise appearances. Dr. Chris and his wife Stephanie, who provided some of the key medical care just after the storm, showed up in their new mobile medical vehicle. They reunited with me and Paula Buhr, as shown in the picture below.

Glen Leavins from Walton County attended and we were blessed with the appearance of Jeff McVay, the Walton County Public Works Manager, who spearheaded Pearlington’s recovery in early September. Also in attendance was Michael Whitehead and Peter Newman. Michael was sent to organize the recovery, at the request of Governor Barbour to Governor Bush of Florida, and managed resources for all six southern counties just after the storm.

Larry Randall and his wife Beth - and of course Laurie Spaschak - were present and spoke of what volunteering in Pearlington has done for them, as this labor of love continues.

Many volunteers spoke eloquently about their experiences and of the common bond of love, friendship and cooperation that has grown between us in the past 12 months. The highlight for me was the induction of Canadian Alexander Yamich, 16, by Tim Goodnow, into the Dog Soldiers as a honorary member. Alex follows in the footsteps of his mother Eileen Powers, who was making her third trip to Pearlington. Alexander represented for us the outstanding work of all the youth volunteers who gave so much of themselves to this recovery effort. The recognition given Alex by the Dog Soldiers was a symbol of a boy coming to Pearlington and returning home a man. I know Alex well and we spent some time last night in quiet reflection together of our experiences here and I hope to share that story soon, with Alex’s permission.

You may read more about the Reunion in today’s Sun Herald, at this link.

Below (when Blogger lets me load them) also find the final tally of "Where Y’All From?" It’s an amazing story and I am deeply humbled and very proud of the small part I have played in the company of such remarkable people. I was thrilled with how the Reunion turned out and already making plans for next year. I think I will let Susie and Pam rest for a while before I spring THAT news on them, however.

It was also wonderful to have my dear wife Marian here for this Reunion. She finally has faces and personalities to go with names and she understands fully now why this has been so important to me and what her unflagging support has meant to me and to Pearlington. She represented all those we leave behind as we do God’s work and how crucial their own contributions have been to this recovery.

Thank you all for this day. May God bless you and the people of Pearlington, as we stand arm in arm and co-create a new and better tomorrow for the people of Pearlington, Mississippi.

"Canada Jon" White


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