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Development Grant Improves Community

August 2005 represents one of the most devastating times for many of us along the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Katrina showed no mercy as she roared through Louisiana and south Mississippi. While many adults were, at least to some degree, familiar with the potential damage these storms can wreak, it was our little ones who were frightened, confused and even angry. Their daily routines were forever changed and the fear could be seen on their faces.

While the outpouring of support in every aspect renewed our faith, there were still these young people who were trapped, literally, due to parents not wanting their children to venture too far out and away from them. The risk of stepping on rusty nails, the possibility of a live downed power line and sadly, the potential for discovering one who did not survive was rather high in those days following the storm's landfall. Parents kept their children close at all times.

It wasn't until we received an announcement our small school would be receiving a community grant that things began to shift. Suddenly, our school that housed four foot of water almost a week after Katrina's landfall would be receiving a lot of attention and tender loving care, courtesy of a development grant from a private donor. To see the faith restored in the children's eyes was priceless. There was purpose and because of a brilliant principal, the kids were invited to play a role in the rebuilding process; after, of course, the area was cleared of potential hazards such as broken glass, loose nails, etc.

It's important to note the school is located less than one mile from the beach and for all intents and purposes, all that remained was a shell of a building which was damaged due to the sheer force of the 130 mph winds. Still, there's nothing so magical than to see determination in a ten year old's face. Overnight, they became decision makers in the future of their school and what would become the school for thousands more as time progressed. They were even given a voice in color choices of the chairs, window blinds and floor tile. They took pride in their new responsibilities and each looked forward to showing up for "work" each day. And then it got even better.

A few weeks into the rebuilding efforts, we received word the community grant would be extended to cover new computers for the school. It was a true blessing. Even as parents were meeting together in an effort to pool what little funds we had between us at that point (no electricity meant no way to withdraw cash from an ATM, no fuel for a hundred miles meant vehicles served no purpose and no physical buildings to report to for work meant no jobs at least temporarily), we had already realized it was going to be difficult if not impossible to provide computers for these kids once school resumed.

Almost five years later, our ten year olds are now teens in high school. You can be sure, though, the bad memories they have of Hurricane Katrina are tempered with the blessing of a community grant that allowed them to take control in a time when control over anything was a rare find.