It's really hard to believe that I have been here 10 days already! When I left Colchester on the 3rd it was 60.....by the time I reached NJ it was 45, Virginia greeted me with 50 degrees on arrival, but by Saturday morning it was 20!! AND SNOWING!! However, the drive was easy and surprisingly the roads were in great shape......only saw two cars off the road the first hour of driving! About that time the sun came out and the temp began rising. However, the weather has not been great since I arrived. So far in December, Biloxi has received 15 in. of rain (10 in. since last Saturday). I think I've seen the sun only once!!! Yesterday was extremely humid, so humid you couldn't see more than 5 ft. ahead!!! Some call it fog. But it was humid.....dripping humid!
It was good to arrive on Sunday afternoon and begin the settling in process. Since I needed food I decided to go to the Super Walmart where I also could pick up a small Christmas tree and some ornaments. Just couldn't sit here without a little Christmas decor!!! The next day I added some pointsettias. Now I'm set!!
Getting reaquainted with the staff on Monday was a breeze....felt like I had only taken then weekend off! The work of the Mission continues full blast! The number of clients has increased substantially and quite surprising is the increase in women with children seeking assistance. Many of the clients were quite familiar to me too....so their situations have not changed dramatically. In fact, one client told me he was fortunate.....he was able to work for a few months, find a place to live, but now he has lost that job and will soon be living in the woods once again. With Christmas almost here, the Mission provides small packages for the homeless that include gloves, wool hat, some snacks, and small canned goods. Families who receive support from the food pantry will receive a food box. The numbers again have increased from last year! The size of the box depends on the size of the family; each will include a turkey or a canned ham. Each box is wrapped in Christmas paper too to make the gift of food a little more festive! The assembly line set up is something to see. The large meeting room in the new Micah Center is a sea of gaily wrapped food boxes!!
This year my assignment is a little different from last. My main duties will be to work with the workcampers each week....coordinating ahead of time their visit and being somewhat of a "hostess" while they are here. The first of my workcamp groups is here this week (from Princeton, IL). There's just 10 of them....but they are making great progress at finishing a home so the family can celebrate Christmas there once again! It's been over 4 years!!! The house was actually condemned by the City of Biloxi as the homeowners just had no way of making the necessary repairs. Someone at City Hall, suggested they contact the Back Bay Mission as a last resort....so here we are.....making a severely damaged home habitable once again. The family: Ingrid, Addison & son Andrew are just the loveliest folks you could ever meet. The goal is to get their furniture out of the Pods and into their home by Friday afternoon. When that is accomplished we will present an afghan and prayer shawl both made by Church women for this purpose.
The two new buildings at the Mission are simple gorgeous! The MicahCenter is designed as a meeting space as well as day services for the homeless and will open its doors after the New Year. The Mission House is designed as dormitory space for workcampers. It can house 44 total with dorms for men and women with large bath facilities across the hall from each. The kitchen is equipped with commercial appliances, a large walk in cooler, food pantry, large freezer (currently full of 100+ turkeys!!) and a 12 burner gas range!!! The group here this week remember their last stay in one of the trailers and truly think they are actually staying at the Ritz although they claim the maid hasn't been by all week! The Mission House also has a large dining area, a lounge with large flat screened TV and two screened varandas complete with rockers!!! Maybe I'll move over there!!
Right now I'm the only one living in the "Modular" (sure wish someone would come up with another name for this house!).....but beginning January 3 a couple will join me for two months, followed by another couple for the last month I'm here. During my stay my assignments may fluctuate....some weeks as the Volunteer Coordinator, others providing support for the Emergency Assistance department. So, it will be an ever evolving experience.....one I'm sure to enjoy! Since arriving, I've been digging through files....paper and computer....and organizing! Now that's something I'm great at!!!
I will be heading to Tallahassee next Tuesday. I have a very important assignment there.....read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to Landon & Gianna!!! Do have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year. And please do keep the homeless and those still waiting to return to their homes in your prayers!