Merry Christmassissippi Local Scouts help Katrina victims in Mississippi

DeKALB - Imagine a massive hurricane is heading toward your home. You could stay and protect yourself or you could leave everything behind and help others. A sense of duty compels you to put others before yourself and your family. Whenever duty calls, you are there to help. After helping thousands of complete strangers find safety, shelter and food, you return home to find that you have lost everything. Your car. Your home. Your community. In September, Hurricane Katrina unleashed her fury on the Gulf Coast of the United States, inflicting widespread damage and leaving thousands homeless. United States troops stationed at Keesler Air Force Base evacuated entire communities to safe havens for safety, shelter, food and medical attention. Returning to Biloxi, Miss., home of Keesler Air Force Base, they found more than one out of five buildings were destroyed - more than 5,100 structures were lost. More than 40 percent of the Air Force families stationed at Keesler were left homeless. Moving to a new city is not an option; they are stationed there and must somehow rebuild their lives. Troop 33 of DeKalb is raising funds to help the military families of Keesler Air Force Base, the heroes of the Katrina disaster, through a project called &#8220Merry Christmassissippi.” Their efforts will take place in a three-part project. Pancake breakfast Troop 33 will host a pancake breakfast as part of the project from 7-10:30 a.m. Saturday at First Lutheran Church, Third and Pine streets. Donations are $5 for adults and $3 for children younger than 12, with preschoolers admitted free. The funds raised will be used to adopt families at Keesler AFB and purchase and personally deliver Christmas gifts. Several hundred children call Keesler Air Force Base home; project &#8220Merry Christmassissippi” will put a little cheer back into their lives. Bible collection From Saturday through Dec. 11, Troop 33 will have a drive to collect new or used Bibles to distribute to families at Keesler Air Force Base. Bibles may be dropped off during business hours at First Lutheran Church, 324 N. Third St. The Scouts are encouraging people to write a personal note of encouragement and use it to mark their favorite Bible passage. Many families at Keesler lost everything, including their Bibles. Road trip and banquet Scouts and leaders from Troop 33 will travel 1,000 miles south to Keesler Air Force Base the week before Christmas to help deliver gifts and Bibles. Troop 33 also will work to convert an empty aircraft hangar into a banquet hall, set up a field kitchen outdoors next to the hangar and cook a holiday banquet for 600 people. Scouts will be either sleeping on the floor of the empty hangar or using tents that they will bring. They will be self-sustaining, providing their own food, and will not require any support from the base. They don't want to add any further burden to the area. Scouts working together Project &#8220Merry Christmassissippi” is being spearheaded by four Scout Troops from across the nation working together; Troop 33 of DeKalb, Troop 55 of Memphis, Tenn., Troop 650 of Alta Loma, Calif., and Troop 231 of Biloxi, Miss. (the home troop of Keesler AFB). The California troop is coordinating major gift packs. The Tennessee troop is bringing gifts for families. The Biloxi troop is coordinating onsite arrangements and identifying critical need families. DeKalb's Troop 33 is handling all cooking and serving for 600 people at the banquet, as well as bringing Bibles and gifts for families. Project &#8220Merry Christmassissippi” is more than providing charity to people in need. The project pays tribute to the military families of Keesler AFB, recognizing their courage, duty and dedication in the face of the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history. Though the images of Hurricane Katrina have faded from the nation's newspaper headlines, the project will send a clear message to the heroes based at Keesler that America has not forgotten them. Troop 33 completed an earlier relief project just days after the Hurricane Katrina disaster by providing more than $2,500 in funds back in September through pancake breakfasts. Project &#8220Merry Christmassissippi” is the troop's second major effort to aid Katrina victims. It will involve raising funds and traveling to Keesler Air Force Base and directly providing support. The Scouts will see first hand the destruction and its impact on families. They also will see the power of community service and how it can sustain hope and comfort to those affected. The Scouts of Troop 33 ask the DeKalb/Sycamore community for their support in this project to help make Christmas a little brighter for the heroes of Hurricane Katrina who returned home to find they had lost everything. Christmas symbolizes a time of hope. &#8220Merry Christmassissippi” will bring gifts to children, Bibles to families, items to mothers with infant children and a giant Christmas party complete with a holiday banquet. More information is available by visiting Troop 33's Web site at troop33dekalb.org.

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