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Bucks Mont Project Continues to Help Gulf Coast

By SARAH LARSON
phillyBurbs.com
Nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, the Bucks Mont Katrina Relief Project is still surging forward to help the area recover.

More people, groups and businesses across Bucks and Montgomery counties continue to join the local relief effort, and more projects and fundraisers to benefit Hancock County, Miss., are moving ahead. Leaders gave updates on those projects this week at a meeting at Byers Choice Ltd. in New Britain.

If group members had any doubts that their work still was appreciated, those doubts were blown away by Diana Fillhart.

“Y’all are such a blessing,” said Fillhart, who had traveled from Bay St. Louis. “May God continue to bless you and your efforts.”

Fillhart is the director of volunteer and community outreach for CityTeam Ministries. The Bucks Mont group has worked with CityTeam for months, helping families in Hancock County rebuild their devastated homes.

Many are middle-class families in which both spouses work, she said. They didn’t get any money from their home insurance policies. They make too much to qualify for grants, but not enough to rebuild their homes, she said.

Several groups of local residents continue to schedule trips to Hancock County to perform construction work. A group of lawyers led by Doylestown attorney Tom Mellon and groups sponsored by Calvary Church in Hilltown plan to return in the fall.

Meanwhile, the next large construction project is under way.

After celebrating the building and opening of a $1.2 million daycare center, the Bucks Mont group decided to build a food pantry for Hancock County. Builder Jon Otto will direct the project, as he did the daycare center. The Solebury resident is president and CEO of Penn Valley Constructors Inc.

“He’s a glutton for punishment,” joked a grinning Bill Eastburn, a Doylestown attorney and co-founder of the Bucks Mont group. Otto joked back: “Don’t think I wasn’t pushed a little bit.”

Hancock County’s food pantry began in 1986. Hurricane Katrina flooded the pantry in Bay St. Louis, destroying the building, the food and all the office equipment. Another pantry opened Feb. 1, 2006, in Waveland, Miss.

Hancock County’s supervisors have secured a new site for a pantry, Otto said. The county is committing about an acre of land near the Bucks Mont-built daycare center. The environmental review of the property will take about six months, Otto said.

The pantry will be about 3,000 square feet and cost about $300,000, Otto said.

Toward that goal, donor Syd Martin has pledged $10,000. Otto matched the donation with $10,000.

Martin, a former owner of Sytex Group Inc., a defense subcontractor that was sold in 2005 to Lockheed Martin, earlier contributed $50,000 to the Bucks Mont effort.

Moore Friends for Mississippi, a similar charity group in North Carolina, has pledged $40,000, according to Karl Benzio of Lighthouse Network, a Christian behavioral health office based in Doylestown. Benzio heads the Bucks Mont Katrina group’s social services committee.

Many other projects also are in the works, including an animal rescue center, a possible partnership with Habitat for Humanity, and more work trips to Hancock County.

The next fundraiser will be a Bucks to the Bayou Picnic at Doylestown’s Fonthill from 4 to 7 p.m. June 10. The event is being organized by David Thompson, of the Doylestown communications firm Thompson Networks, and Jack Skudris, owner of the Memorable Affairs catering company. For more information, call 267-893-6940.

Sarah Larson can be reached at 215-345-3187 or slarson@phillyBurbs.com.

June 19, 2007 4:56 AM