Mississippi Katrina Relief Program Picks Up Steam
More than two years after Hurricane Katrina struck the U.S. Gulf Coast, many areas are still waiting for the resources to rebuild and the Home Builders Institute (HBI), the workforce development arm of NAHB, continues the “Operation Reconstruct” relief efforts it launched in New Orleans in September 2006.
The HBI program trains displaced residents in residential construction skills, preparing them for employment in the building industry, while enabling them to help in their community’s rebuilding efforts.
The success of the program in New Orleans, where more than 70 residents have been placed in industry jobs, laid the groundwork for it to be brought to Gulfport, Miss.
Operation Reconstruct in Gulfport was made possible through a partnership with the Home Builders Association of the Mississippi Coast and funding from Freddie Mac and NAHB’s Home Building Industry Disaster Relief Fund (HBIDRF). The program officially opened its doors in May.
Following 12 weeks of study and on-the-job, hands-on learning, an inaugural class of 12 students completed Operation Reconstruct’s curriculum and on Sept. 12 received their Pre-Apprenticeship Training certificates (PACT) at the program’s first graduation ceremony.
Becky Froass, Freddie Mac's senior director for industry relations, and NAHB Past President and longtime HBI advocate Bobby Rayburn presented the certificates as friends, family and a host of others, including Scott Walker from the office of Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), joined the celebration.
In his commencement address, Don Halle, president of Gulf Construction Company, encouraged the graduates to “build new lives and act as a driving force toward recovery in the Gulf Region.”
“These graduates are in a position to not only help themselves and their families, but the skills they’ve learned can be of great assistance to their neighbors and a resource to the entire community,” said Rayburn.
Biloxi ABC affiliate WLOX TV-13 returned to follow up on its summer coverage of the program, which has also been featured on the CBS Saturday Evening News.
Local partners that have helped the program flourish include CARES of Mississippi, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, the Gaston Point Community Development Corporation, the City of Gulfport, Gulfport WIN Job Center and the West Gulfport Community Development Center.
For more information on Operation Reconstruct, e-mail Dennis Torbett at HBI, or call him at 800-795-7955 x8908.