Katrina Elder Volunteer
When government agencies stumbled in their response to Hurricane Katrina, volunteers from churches across the country stepped up. Since September, thousands of workers have headed south to help clean up and rebuild. As Reed Galin reports, one of those helpers is a bit older than most, but no less enthusiastic.
(Locator: Ocean Springs, Mississippi)
Some people his age might sit in a rocking chair at home. But at 85, Aubrey Smith is putting on his work boots.
Aubrey Smith/85-Year-Old Volunteer: “I wanted to do something worthwhile.”
Smith is the oldest of 18 members of First United Methodist Church in Guntersville, Alabama who came to help Hurricane Katrina victims on the Mississippi coast.
Aubrey Smith: “It’s unbelievable, when you see boats that are blown way up in the forest, and a beautiful home here that’s completely wrecked.”
Smith helped rip up flooring and tear out moldy sheetrock from a home in Ocean Springs, flooded when a quiet canal in the backyard became a raging river.
Aubrey Smith: “I’ve met a lot of new friends and I’ve learned how to clean up a house. Before this, all I could do was wash dishes.”
The retired NASA engineer easily kept up with workers less than half his age.
Matt Triplett/Volunteer, Guntersville First United Methodist Church: “I had to have a water break before he did this morning, I believe.”
Aubrey Smith: “There’s a dictionary. Wonder if they want to keep that?”
Eric Cummings/Volunteer Coordinator: “The age has nothing to do with it. It’s the heart that matters. And the older folks, if you will, the more-seasoned folks, they have the heart for it.”
Homeowner hugs Smith: “Thank you so much.”
The biggest reward for Smith and the crew was a personal thank-you from homeowner Marie Mullen. Her family, like many others, is starting over after Katrina.
Marie Mullen/Hurricane Survivor: “For those of us who have lost everything here on the coast, volunteers like you coming to help us means so much. Thank you. Thank you.”
Aubrey Smith: “I can’t live forever, but right now I don’t have any problems. So if you got a little time, come down here and work. You’ll be proud of yourself if you do.”
More than 3,000 volunteers have signed up to help at the “Christians Organized for Relief Efforts” base camp, located at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. And all skill levels are needed. The minimum age is 18, but no one is “too old” to help out.
To find out more, go to the C.O.R.E. website: www.corebasecamp.com.
Also see: Age poses no barrier for Katrina relief workers.