Volunteers assist Habitat for Humanity in Vicksburg

Published 6:57 pm Monday, July 23, 2018

Last week, Habitat for Humanity and Vicksburg Family Development got some outside help.

July 16, a group of 38 volunteers — 12 adults and 26 teenagers aged 13-18 — from Monroe Congregational Church in Monroe, Connecticut, arrived in Vicksburg to work on two Habitat homes under construction on Roosevelt Street, help with repairs at Vicksburg Family Development and replace a roof at a home on Spring Street.

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The group also toured the Vicksburg national Military Park and went to eat at Walnut Hills.

“We do a mission trip every summer, and we do a mix of urban and rural,” said Jimmy Viglione, one of the adult supervisors working with the group. “This year is a rural trip. I’ve been pushing for Vicksburg for about 10 years, now because I knew about the AmeriCorps presence here, but the drive is such a long drive, it’s about 24 hours.

“This year, we decided to make a longer push. I called some individuals who put me in touch with Gertrude Young at the city of Vicksburg Housing Department. She had so much work for us. The more people we spoke to, the more projects that became available.”

He said the members of Hawkins United Methodist Church invited them to stay at the church. “They were so welcoming, this trip became obvious,” he said.

“That’s not an affiliate of our church, so it’s strange to be so welcomed by a denomination that’s not our own, so it was a really special gift for them to open their doors to us.”

While one group of volunteers worked on the Habitat homes, another group was at Vicksburg Family Development making repairs to a flood damaged area at the center.

“We’re painting and doing drywall work over there,” Viglione said.

“It was amazing; it was so wonderful” said Leanne Katzenmeyer,. “At one point in time, all 38 were in this building doing something during that week.”

Katzenmeyer said Home Depot donated the materials for the repairs at the Family Development office on Monroe Street.

“We were blessed beyond measure. They came from so far just to help us get into this building. We can never repay them, and (director) Kay (Lee) feels the same way.”

Habitat director Abraham Green said the group’s work “is a big help; it makes us feel better. It helps us know that our work is not in vain. We’ve made some progress. The big thing about it is gives them (the students) a really good opportunity to learn about community involvement, giving back spiritually, serving and helping others.”

Green worked with the teens to show them some of the basic skills to work on the house.

“They catch on fast,” he said. “They know they’re helping out and they want to be good. Just knowing the desire to help is there; that means a lot. It encourages us to continue.”

Viglione said the group raised funds to buy the materials to roof the home on Spring Street, which was to have been done Friday. He said the homeowner on Spring has had the leak for three years, but was unable pay to have the problem fixed.

He said there was more than the need and AmeriCorps that brought the group south.

“There’s so much history here dating back obviously to the Civil War,” he said. “It’s important for us to try and expose our youth group to different cultures and environments that they’re not accustomed to, and we thought of Vicksburg having so much history and such a racially diverse area.

“Where they (the students) are in Connecticut is not nearly as diverse as it is here in Vicksburg.”

The group left early Saturday morning for Roanoke, Virginia, the first leg of their return home.

“We feel so grateful to be invited to your city and we get so much more out of this trip than the work that we’re doing,” Viglione said. “We feel so indebted to Vicksburg and all the people we worked with and the everybody in the city are really special to us, so we want to say thank you to every body we’ve met.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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