My name is Traci Frees and I am the volunteer coordinator with ULM Relief in Biloxi, MS. After dedicating more than three years of our lives to the reconstruction efforts after Hurricane Katrina, and rebuilding over 1,200 homes in Biloxi, feeding victims and first responders within five days after Hurricane Katrina, and accruing over 400,000 volunteer hours (from Churches, Colleges, AmeriCorps, etc.) rebuilding homes, we were removing the last few RVs from our site and were greeted morning with a display of pure maliciousness. Police believe it happened between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning at 11AM when we arrived on the scene. Police found blood and fingerprints on the broken glass and an investigation is underway.
My husband Mark Jones and I ran the camp in Biloxi with help of volunteers from around the country and even Keesler Air Force Base on weekends. We left our jobs (I taught at Auburn University and my husband owned his own business) and families to come down and help the people of Biloxi, MS by concentrating on East Biloxi’s citizens. Since August we have been shutting down our relief site in order to comply with the City of Biloxi’s new ordinance for temporary structures. Since September we have been demolishing the temporary buildings on our relief site , taking down our tents, and finally removing the RVs that enabled us to live and work near those who could not help themselves after Katrina. We gave all we could to Biloxi, and end the end much was taken away. We still owe a substantial amount on the RV, and wanted to move our relief efforts with our Non-profit organization to other areas of the country to continue our humanitarian efforts. Now, we are forced to scrounge for funds to pay for fixing the damages on the vandalized RVs and hurriedly move them to another location in order to avoid more potential damage in the future. It breaks our hearts that we leave Biloxi after all we’ve given and the lives we’ve seen changed on a not such as this.
Summary of damage done: Inside of RV trashed (all personal possession ripped out and bagged up to remove from site), food brought in RV and eaten, Windows broken to obtain entrance, curtains pulled down and cut for no reason, outside of RV slide out pulled and damaged to open slide outs, back window broken which alone will be about $1,000 to replace, desk inside smashed. The side of the RV near the street undamaged, all damage done where perpetrator could not be seen. The pictures I’ve attached include the proclamation from the City of Biloxi recognizing our contributions to the community. The ULM Relief Site pictures were taken before August 2009, which is when we began to shut down our site from East Biloxi after the July 2009 ordinance change.
While we know this malicious act does not represent the hearts of the people, we will always cherish our time in Biloxi and the time we spent restorning hope and rebuilding lives.
The link to the story at WLOX is WLOX Video
You can contact Traci or Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org
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