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Piles of Rubble in Columbia: Students, Churches Try to Lighten the Load

COLUMBIA, Miss.–Making the load lighter for the city that was hit by a tornado the day before Christmas Eve. That’s what a steady stream of volunteers has been doing in the weeks since the twister. News Mississippi caught up with two of those groups Friday.

Laura Newman is a senior at St. Martin High School. She came up on a bus with several other students, a teacher and their principal. Her family went through Hurricane Katrina, and that’s part of what motivated her to help.

“I was in third grade. Our house was flooded and we evacuated, but I know tons of people who didn’t and those people were like my family and so I’d want people to help them and I want to help people here.”

Deana Holland is the principal.

“I went through Katrina and my parents lost everything. Had they not had volunteers come from multiple places, they probably would not have gotten back on their feet as quick as they did.”

Hollis Gatlin attends the Church of God in Christ in Tylertown, about 20 miles to the west of Columbia. His group was picking up trash and debris right along side the students.

“We’ve got a brotherhood ministry at the church and we decided to come help our neighboring community. They’re in need and we’re coming to lend ’em a helping hand.”

There’s still months of cleanup left in Columbia. There are piles of rubble where houses stood last month.

You can volunteer by reporting to the site of Woodlawn Church. You can donate, if you can’t make it to Columbia, at pinebeltfoundation.org.

“It’s a hard thing to handle by yourselves,” said Newman. The people of Columbia, turned down for individual FEMA assistance, would likely agree.

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