Thursday, November 30, 2006

Focus On: Camp Coastal Outpost

When life serves you up a lemon, make lemonade.

Few are better at squeezing lemons than Mike Sweeney and Sandy Mullinhouse, the driving forces behind Camp Coastal Outpost. Mike, formerly of the Emergency Operations Center and Sandy, of International Aid joined together this year in a desire to focus on the job of rebuilding the coast and of just getting it done.

Together, they have built a thriving volunteer community on a chunk of donated land adjacent to Coastal Hardware in the Kiln. There they can house and feed up to 300 volunteers working on a wide variety of reconstruction projects and new home building in a number of coastal communities, including Pearlington. They are well-equipped and determined, having surrounded themselves with a core of talented and dedicated volunteer staff.

Yesterday, at Camp Coastal, Mike Sweeney announced to me that they had just been successful in the acquisition of a generous grant from an international donor - to the tune of $2.25 million dollars!

It is their intention and mandate to construct 150 new homes on the coast, including a good number in St. Bernard's Parish in New Orleans. They will focus on the neediest and most high-risk families and they know that the possibility of additional funding is dependent upon their ability to effectively employ these funds NOW.

Camp Coastal, like all of C.O.D.R.A.'s members on the coast, requires volunteers. We cannot afford to let such financial largesse sit idle or go to waste. In fact, that donor originally granted these funds to two other larger, more "known" agencies who were just not able to use them effectively or immediately. This same international source has already invested $1.25 million in Camp Coastal through monetary and in-kind donations this year.

In Pearlington, Camp Coastal is currently working on four homes and about to start two more. I visited the Doyle project with Mike Sweeney and Larry Randall. You may remember young Alexis Doyle, the recipient of a wheelchair from Ardmore Baptist Church back in late April. Soon, her parents Donnie and Donna Doyle and their family will have a new home they can call their own, thanks to Camp Coastal.

Donna Doyle with her son and Larry Randall

We encourage Mike and Sandy to continue to see Pearlington as one of those high-risk areas deserving of their ongoing consideration. Their vision, dedication and brilliant leadership is making a huge difference on the coast. I encourage C.O.D.R.A. member agencies and our own volunteer network to support Camp Coastal's projects; certainly, in the least, here in Pearlington. I know we are all hurting for volunteers, but this opportunity is too good to jeopardize.

It was also great to connect with Arjay and Cindy Sutton - a great pair of volunteers who met while running the New Waveland Cafe after the storm, affectionately known by all the early volunteers as the "Hippie Cafe." Arjay and Cindy were married and are back on the coast doing what they can.

I was also reunited with Andrea Tveit. Andrea was the Team Leader of the Americorps group I worked with back in late October and November last year, while I was managing the Recovery Center. Graduated now from Americorps, Andrea discovered being idle at home was not for her and so threw herself back into the thick of things.

Hats off to Camp Coastal! Check them out at:

Let's see what we can do to make them the newest member of C.O.D.R.A.


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