Recently, Rick Taylor, Principal of Earthborne Equipment Inc., full line JCB dealer for southeastern Pennsylvania, transported a new JCB 214 4 by 4 loader backhoe to Gautier, Miss., on a humanitarian mission to render aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Taylor provided leadership, expertise and assistance to a combined mission group from Newtown Presbyterian Church and Mission Possible from Bensalem, Pa.
The group of 26 people with a variety of talents, spent six days in Gautier helping people devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Although it was eight months since the storm hit, the group was well received by local families still struggling to recover from the storm.
Grace United Methodist Church of Gautier served as a coordinating center to house, feed and direct the group to needy families. Part of the mission group adopted a local house that has been flooded and its roof destroyed. Upon arrival, the house was covered in what was left of a large blue tarp. The family of five was living outside the house in a FEMA trailer. The volunteers replaced the roof, rotted wood, ceilings and wallboard. By the end of the week they had power-washed and painted the house, even adding new shutters. It was their version of “Extreme Makeover.” The family moved in and was very grateful for the generosity of the group.
Taylor and his crew took the backhoe to five different properties to help clean up and start the rebuilding process. The first house had been demolished due to 8 ft. of mud and debris left inside after the flood subsided. The house had been declared “uninhabitable.” The 84 year old widow homeowner was living in a FEMA trailer. Taylor cleared and regraded the site so other mission groups could lay the footings to begin building the woman a new home.
A second home site that they worked on was owned by Donovan Gautier, a descendant of the founder of the town. He was one of a few survivors in the Batan Death March during World War II. After the hurricane, Gautier and his wife were left with only the concrete slab of their home of 50 years. They lost all their personal belongings and received no insurance money for their losses.
Taylor and his group cleared and regraded their gulf coast property. They felt very blessed to help someone who had posted a large sign where his house had stood that said: “I survived the horror and devastation of the March of Batan and I will survive Hurricane Katrina.”
Other jobs accomplished with the 214 included debris removal, water drainage, washout regrading and large stump removals.
Taylor felt his trip of 2,400 mi. was a “giving back” experience and hopes many more groups will continue to help the gulf region people for a long time. He knows his group will be one of many who plan to return.