Rebuilding the Gulf Coast

Stephen DeAngelis

December 28, 2006

Last Sunday’s Parade magazine contained a heartwarming article about efforts to rebuild the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation [“I Can’t Believe I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” by David Oliver Relin, 24 December 2006].The story focuses on the rebuilding efforts in Hancock County, Mississippi. One of the heroes of the story is Bill Eastburn, a member of Enterra Solutions’ Board of Directors. Relin begins his story by quickly telling the stories of several citizens of Hancock County, he then writes:

“Some 1.250 miles to the north, Bill Eastburn, 74, a lawyer from Bucks Country, Pa., was haunted by the suffering of the storm’s victims, like so many other Americans. ‘A few days after Katrina, I was having trouble sleeping when I thought, “The federal government is botching the job, and there’s got to be a better way,”‘ he says. ‘I decided an affluent community like mine should reach out directly to a devastated community.’ Eastburn called Mike Scobey, publisher of The Intelligencer in Bucks County, and local philanthropist Bob Byers, who donated $100,000 to form the Bucks Mont Katrina Relief Project. Scobey committed his newspaper to rallying support for the campaign. The Pennsylvanians embraced their mission with stubborn stick-to-itness that has made this community, where Washington crossed the Delaware, famous for its grit since the Revolutionary War. The group decided to aim its effort at a single county in MIssissippi, sensing that the media focus on New Orleans might divert scarce resources from other places. They chose Hancock.”

Bill’s effort embraces the kind of community of practice I promote in our Development-in-a-Box™ approach. It shows what remarkable things can be achieved when civic-minded individuals work together, outside of government channels but cooperating with government officials, to accomplish a common goal. Relin continues:

“Thousands in Bucks County have helped. Kala Lazarus, 11, donated $20 she’d earned at her lemonade stand. Sarah Jacobs, 16, held a fashion show that raised $900 and traveled to Hancock County with her family, helping to rebuild homes. ‘My wife says I didn’t work this hard when I was getting paid, but it’s worth it,’ says Grover Friend, 70, who came out of retirement to coordinate the campaign. ‘It’s pulling us all together.’ So far they have raised more than $2 million to rebuild Hancock County. And nearly 170 Pennsylvania churches have ‘adopted’ 500 Mississippi families, providing clothing, food and the knowledge that their fellow Americans haven’t forgotten them in their hour of greatest need.”

Bill Eastburn wanted to make sure that Hancock County residents received real help and didn’t get the feeling that a bunch of wealthy Yankees were trying to make themselves feel superior by giving a few alms.

“The Pennyslvanians arrived in private jets because the commercial airports were still closed. They found overwhelmed officials working in tents, ‘We were shell-shocked,’ explains County Supervisor Lisa Cowand, who says that Katrina didn’t leave ‘even a whisper’ of her home. ‘These folks threw their arms around us, and we breathed easier,’ she says. ‘We didn’t want to go down there like some damn Yankees,’ Bill Eastburn says. ‘We asked people what they needed most.’ They decided to construct a child-development center because day-care facilities had been decimated. Bucks County contractor Jon Otto spearheaded the fund-raising effort, recruited volunteers and supervised the construction of a new, state-of-the-art facility. Fred Beans rallied employees of his car dealerships, raising $100,000 to furnish the interior. ‘Up here we’re worrying about where to go out to dinner, and down there people are living in trailers,’ Beans says. ‘I thought our community adopting theirs would make both into better places. And it has.’ Since the storm, 480 volunteers have traveled to Hancock County. Ask anyone, and they’ll say the experience has changed them. None more so than Maureen Gatto. She arrived in April with 25 lawyers to spend a week rehabbing homes. Gatto was so moved, she gave up her law practice and relocated to Mississippi. Now she coordinates the group’s efforts in Hancock County.”

Inevitably those who pull together to help others find their own lives enriched. It feels good to do good, but more importantly doing good generally begins a ripple effect that results in both those who help and those receiving help getting others involved helping others. I’m proud of Bill and am grateful he is part of the Enterra team.