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A House Left Standing: After the Storm

Original reporting by Andrea Becklund, emergency and child protection coordinator for Christian Children's Fund.

Even though her Jackson, Miss. house was damaged by wind and water, she lost all of her food and her house is now inundated by foul-smelling mold, Mozetta considers herself fortunate.

One glance out her window at a neighbor’s house, a tree crushing the roof, only reinforces her belief.

“I am one of the lucky ones,” said Mozetta, a longtime resident of Jackson, which is the state’s capital, located about 150 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. 

Hurricane Katrina knocked down trees and power lines in Mozetta's neighborhood, leaving many of her neighbors homeless. Mozetta, however, is not only fortunate enough to still have a home after the hurricane displaced many residents throughout Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, she still has a flowerbed filled with carnations outside her lightly damaged house.

Even with her house relatively intact, life remains difficult for Mozetta, a woman in her mid-60s. Her only source of income is a modest amount of Social Security benefits and that’s not much with four grandsons — ages 19, 18, 17 and 15 — to raise. Two of the boys are Christian Children's Fund-sponsored youth and use services at CCF’s Community Center, Operation Shoestring. The program provides after school education and recreation activities as well as case management and referral for families to obtain necessities such as food and utility assistance.

So far the costliest hurricane in the nation’s history, the hurricane caused extensive damage throughout Mozetta’s neighborhood, located in one of the poorest areas in Jackson. It’s a place where minimum wage and hourly labor jobs are the norm. Luxuries are essentially non-existent. Mozetta has resided in her home for the past 20 years, but in those two decades a lot has changed. Many of the houses on her block are now boarded up and abandoned as the neighborhood has diminished over time. And that was before the hurricane.

In the aftermath of the storm, families found themselves without food, clean water, gas and medications. Their homes, cars and garages sustained damage after high winds felled trees and power lines and heavy rains caused water damage.

“In all my years I have never seen the wind blow so hard, my boys are old now but boy they were scared,” Mozetta said. “I was scared.”

Mozetta and her grandchildren remained without power for a week. Consequently, all the food in the house was lost. Toppled trees in her backyard knocked shingles loose on the roof and allowed water to seep into the house.

When the storm made landfall, the gas gauge needle sat on empty in Mozetta's family car. Gas was hard to come by as power outages closed some stations and created long lines at others. Residing in a high-crime area, Mozetta was afraid to leave her home. For a few days, Meals on Wheels delivered water and food to Mozetta, who suffers from a heart condition. Eventually, she turned to Operation Shoestring’s food bank.

CCF stocked its food banks at Operation Shoestring as well as the North Delta Youth Development and We Care projects also in Mississippi. The food will support evacuee families as well as host families who have run out of food.

In the midst of the destruction and devastation, Mozetta somehow retains her southern hospitality, serving cold ice tea with a warm smile.

“Everybody knows and appreciates southern hospitality,” she said on Sept. 13.  “A few days ago, ice was a luxury.”