R3SM: Volunteer labor saved $800K in rebuilding efforts

R3SM: Volunteer labor saved $800K in rebuilding efforts

PINE BELT (WDAM) - As we draw closer to the date of last year's deadly tornado, there's been ongoing progress in the Pine Belt, which has pulled together to get back on its feet.

Recovering, rebuilding, and restoring South Mississippi is what the nonprofit organization R3SM stands for, and that's exactly what it has been doing. The nonprofit gave an overview of the volunteer service making it all possible.

Hammer after hammer, bearing down on nail after nail. Volunteers from as far as Canada have put in more than 32,000 hours of community service since the storm.

"They have stepped up, even directly after the storm. There were emergency volunteers who started training other people in the community the day after the tornado," said Mavis Creagh, Chief Operating Officer of R3SM. "That's just what was accounted for. I'm sure there is some not accounted for, but we try to do our best to account for the volunteers."

An overview of the strides made with the help of volunteers shows more than 1,200 volunteers went to work with R3SM in the Pine Belt over the past year.

"With volunteers, you're able to cut down on contracted labor," said Creagh.

The total volunteer labor added up to about $800,000 saved.

R3SM also credits partnerships for the progress to rebuild.

"There's a lot of focus on volunteers from out of state, but we do have local people who have stepped in and been very faithful," said Creagh.

As of now, R3SM has 16 rebuilds in progress with 62 approved in total. The nonprofit still needs hands to help in recovery, but it has this message for those who have already given their time.

"Thank you for being the hands and feet of God," Creagh said. "We're thankful for your sacrifice, service, and dedication to our community. Without you, we would not be able to recover."

R3SM worked closely with the Greater Pine Belt Foundation in its recovery efforts. A large part of the money they used to rebuild was raised by you, the community, during the telethon hosted with WDAM.

Tune in to our Sunday special, "Pine Belt Strong: One Year Later," where we'll give you a breakdown on how the money you raised is being spent.