SEMA in Action

By John Gordon*

D’IBERVILLE, Miss. (UMNS)–Their red shirts and caps say SEMA, but they are not to be confused with staff of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a federal organization that has been criticized for its sluggish response to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

SEMA stands for Scouting Emergency Management Assistance, a title coined by Boy Scout Troop 566, sponsored by Trinity United Methodist Church in Warner Robins, Ga.

“We’ve come here seven times now,” said Michael Hilton, 13, a member of the Georgia troop that rebuilds homes on the Mississippi Gulf coast.

SEMA’s latest project was to repair homes in D’Iberville, Miss., and to deliver $5,000 worth of equipment to the Waveland, Miss., Fire Department.

In D’Iberville, the Scouts are familiar faces at a tent city that has housed more than 4,000 volunteers who have contributed more than 160,000 hours to the recovery effort.

The Scouts tore down walls in a house damaged by floodwaters and mowed the grass for another homeowner.

The troop also put up insulation in a home being built by Russell Baygents. “Right after the storm, I had enough money to build this house,” said Baygents. “But as prices went so high, now I don’t have enough money to build this house. And if I don’t have some volunteers to help me some, then I’m not going to be able to finish it.”

Travel to Waveland

After working in D’Iberville, the troop delivered tools, equipment, office supplies, furniture, and bottled water to the Waveland Fire Department, located some 40 miles away. The gift of bottled water was appreciated since Waveland residents are still unsure about the safety of the municipal supply.

Waveland’s downtown fire station, the post office and other businesses were swept away by the storm surge.

The troop also gave the fire fighters a lawn mower and a weed cutter to trim around overgrown fire hydrants.

“When you’re faced with what you’re faced with, some people just want to give up,” said Mike Smith, Waveland’s assistant fire chief. He said a lot of groups “have come along to give all of us hope to rebuild and know that it’s going to come back.” He expressed appreciation to the Scouts and called their efforts “incredible.”

“These items would have taken awhile for us to regain them again, because of the magnitude of the storm and the financial situation that we’re in,” he said.

“We’re helping out people and that’s just what Scouts do,” said 11-year-old Patrick Nakayama.

The Scouts spent several weeks collecting donations from friends and businesses before loading up two trailers and making the seven-hour trip to Mississippi. Many have been shocked to see the devastation first-hand.

“When I first came here, it made me cry,” said Clifford Aungst, 12. “I mean, they had nothing there on the slab. They just had nothing.”

Ben Leon, 13, said the values he learned in the scouting program led him to volunteer for the Mississippi trip. “You just know you’re doing a good thing. It makes you feel good,” he said. “It’s just my duty.”

Also on the trip was John Bishop, 19, a former scout who is now one of the troop’s leaders. “They need a lot of help,” said Bishop. “They are very gracious for every minute that you help them.”

Billy Miller, assistant scoutmaster, said D’Iberville residents and Waveland firefighters were not the only ones helped by the outreach. He said the troop is planning more trips to help Gulf coast residents.

“I think it’s changed all their lives,” Miller said. “I have brought several boys down here, and I’ve never taken one back. They’ve all gone back as young men.”

Story and photos by John Gordon, freelance producer and writer based in Marshall, Texas. Story and photos courtesy of UMNS.

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[…] Scouting News » Blog Archive » SEMA in Action D’IBERVILLE, Miss. (UMNS)–Their red shirts and caps say SEMA, but they are not to be confused with staff of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a federal organization that has been criticized for its sluggish response to victims of Hurricane Katrina. […]

The other posting is correct! The SEMA has nothing to do with FEMA!! Well, actually, if it wasn’t for FEMA then the spin off name SEMA wouldn’t be here! These boys actually came with with the name becasue of the frustrations of FEMA not doing anything and the Scouts were shocked! So, after their first trip to MS they came up with the name. Mr Miller should be commended on what he has done when the need arose. He jumped right in there and put the first trip together with alot of help from many folks. After that, the Scouts took off with it! The boys wanted to go back and still do. These are the kind of boys our Nation should be VERY proud of!!

By Kim Gourley on February 14th, 2008 at 6:19 am
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