2005-12-23 / Community

Devastated Parish Thanks Rockaway For Helping Hand

By Tori Toth

St. Thomas the Apostle Parish and School after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August.St. Thomas the Apostle Parish and School after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August.

  • A message of thanks sent from more than a thousand miles away shows signs that life is returning to normal in a small Mississippi city – thanks to a local charity organization and some generous Rockaway residents.
  • It’s been about four months since Hurricane Katrina swallowed parts of the Gulf Coast, including the city of Long Beach, Mississippi, a beachfront community with landscapes that could be easily mistaken for the Rockaways.

    The Graybeards, a local not-for-profit group, felt a connection to Long Beach and started a fundraising campaign in September to help schools and houses of worship there rebuild in the wake of the devastation.

    The effort paid off, giving St. Thomas the Apostle Parish and School a second chance. Their appreciation was made clear in a letter sent to the Graybeards.

    “You and your organization were instrumental in getting our school back up and running,” wrote Rodney Santos, a member of the parish, in his “thank you” letter sent to the Graybeards.

    “We re-opened our doors on October 3, things have not slowed down yet,” Santos reported.

    Flip Mullen and Donald Hart, members of the Graybeards, delivered a truck filled with donations to Long Beach. Rockaway residents provided money, books, clothing, medical supplies, vestments and other church and school supplies to the parish.

    “You are a perfect living example of the words ‘whatever you do for the least of my brothers,’” Santos said. “It is great to see the message of the Gospel is still being lived out today in the lives of so many generous people like yourself,” he continued.

    In November, their bishop gave the parish the OK to rebuild the church, parish life center, rectory and parish offices in the same location. Meanwhile, the parish has been operating both its church and school in a converted skating rink owned by the Knights of Columbus until the construction is finished.

    “It was great to get our kids back to a somewhat normal routine but now we are busy trying to get started on the re-building of our permanent school,” Santos explained.

    Rita Mullen, Flip’s wife, told the Wave, she wanted to thank the community for their generosity, “Rockaway has made the holidays a little easier down there,” she said.

    The true blessing behind the storm, Santos said, was “the outpouring of support from so many since the hurricane.”

    The parish has sent the Graybeards a DVD to thank Rockaway residents. “Please pass [this DVD] on to everyone of the Graybeards to show how much we appreciate what you have done for us in our time of need,” wrote Santos.

    The DVD provides heart-warming thoughts with the parish’s priest as well as shows the process of healing through re-building and giving children a chance to return to school.

    If you would like to see a copy of the DVD you can call Flip Mullen at (718) 945-4593.

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