Habitat Help for Storm Victims

For storm victims Myrel Labat and her three children, Hurricane Katrina is something they will never forget!

"I had no job, no house, no car! I lost everything," says Labat.

However, now she can smile because it appears that brighter days are ahead for Labat who evacueated to Meridian. Good days are ahead thanks to a new initiative through Lauderdale County's Habitat for Humanity.

Known as Operation Home Delivery, the project is designed to provide houses for people who lost their homes in recent storms. Organizers say for the victims this effort provides a 'hand-up' instead of just a 'hand-out!'

"Because you do buy a Habitat house but you buy it at a no interest loan, at the cost it takes us to build a home which is way below appraised values. So, they have to be able to pay a mortgage," says Fonda Rush who is the Executive Director for Lauderdale County's Habitat for Humanity.

Right now one Habitat warehouse in Meridian is filled with frames for the 8 houses that are set to be built. All of the frames were put together in Washington D.C. by work teams from different states. If all goes well, soon they'll be moved out of the warehouse and to the site where construction will take place.

"We're hoping the second week in January to begin construction," says Rush. "We'll begin then if the weather holds up and we can do our first foundation."

In all, Habitat officials project that it will take about six to seven months to build all of the houses. With the materials in hand, they say all they need now are volunteers.

"So, funding for the houses is not an issue," says Rush, "it's more workers and food for the workers."

For more information on volunteering or how you can apply for this assistance you can contact the Lauderdale County office for Habitat for Humanity at (601) 485-4992. Project officials say all applicants must have plans to stay in Meridian, something which doesn't bother recipients such as the Labat's at all!

"It's a blessing," says Labat. "I don't know how to describe it. It's just a blessing!"

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