An $850,000 grant for AmeriCorps will lighten the post-Katrina load carried by Lauderdale County Habitat for Humanity and the Biloxi Housing Authority.

AmeriCorps Rebuilds Mississippi, a program run by the Meridian Housing Authority, will use the money to expand it worker base to 116 people. That's 60 additional volunteers to rebuild, repair and remove debris from Biloxi and Meridian Housing Authority units damaged in last year's hurricane.

The workers will also help Lauderdale County Habitat for Humanity build 14 new homes — more than four times the number Habitat volunteers build each year.

The money is a portion of $3.4 million granted by the Corporation for National Community Service and the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service for hurricane relief expansion along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

"The help is desperately needed, especially for Habitat for Humanity," said Louis Sutton, Meridian Housing Authority's director of community and supportive service.

Sutton said he will take applications until all 60 positions are filled, though he cautioned that only people with strong backs with a strong desire to help need apply.

"It's pretty labor-intensive," said Sutton. "It's going to be a lot of debris removal with some light construction work."

To qualify, candidates must be U.S. citizens with a high school education. Background checks will be performed. Volunteers will receive a stipend of $2,362 for six months of work. Sutton said 30 volunteers will be recruited from the Biloxi/Gulf Coast area and 20 volunteers from the Meridian area. Meridian residents can apply to work in Biloxi, though Sutton said they would need to make their own housing arrangements.

Meridian Housing Authority Executive Director Derwin Jackson expressed his gratitude for the grant.

"We are extremely proud of the fact that our AmeriCorps Rebuilds Mississippi program has been recognized as an exemplary program by the Corporation for National and Community Service and we are appreciative of the efforts and support that the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service has provided to us as we have developed this program," Jackson said in a press release.

"Not only have Meridian and the members benefited from this program, we have also been able to reach out to other communities to assist them."

GET INVOLVED

If you are interested in becoming a part of AmeriCorps Rebuilds Mississippi, call Louis Sutton of the Meridian Housing Authority at (601) 481-3420.

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