VISIONS Mississippi

The small city of Moss Point, with a predominantly African American population of roughly 17,500, lies north of Pascagoula in Jackson County. Pascagoula is due east of Gulfport, about 5 miles from the coast. Much of Moss Point was either flooded or destroyed by Katrina. Before Katrina 15% to 17% of Moss Point’s population lived below the poverty line.

VISIONS was invited to Moss Point a couple of years ago, and so this season we accepted the invitation. We’ll be living at a local Baptist Church that was home to hundreds of volunteers who streamed in for two years to help in the wake of Katrina. Participants will work in Moss Point as well as at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center

The Pascagoula River Audubon Center is a gateway to the Pascagoula River, its habitats and the diverse assemblage of organisms that inhabit, or visit the river basin throughout the year. Apart from providing visitors and students direct exposure and experience within such a rich environment, the center serves as a demonstration site for environmentally friendly concepts and a portal to nature based programs applicable to any and all visitors.

You know about the April oil well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico and the growing devastation to the environment as a result. President Obama has warned of a “massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster” as the damaged oil well leaks a widening deadly slick toward delicate wetlands and wildlife. The oil slick threatens hundreds of species of fish, birds and other marine life along the Gulf Coast, one of the world’s richest seafood grounds.

With guidance from our partners at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center, we’ll do whatever we can to assist in clean-up efforts. In fact, this season VISIONS will work primarily in the community of Moss Point, due east of Gulfport but still about 5 miles from the Coast. The community has invited us and is making a home and plans for our arrival. We’ll still visit Turkey Creek and North Gulfport to work on other projects on the Creek, with the North Gulfport Land Trust, and to volunteer occasionally at the Isaiah Fredericks Center with delightfully engaging elderly residents tell fantastic stories of their childhoods growing up along the Creek.

Now to our plans for our non-work hours! We will head to New Orleans for a long day and evening to hear great music, eat local food (prepare to set your taste buds ablaze!) and explore the French Quarter. We’ll take a canoe trip down the Wolf River, a kayak tour to explore a local estuary, and a day trip to Shipp Island, too. The annual 4th of July fireworks show is a great way to spend the holiday, and on Friday nights there is some wonderful live music in Moss Point! I guarantee that one of the highlights for you will be the crab boil at Moss Point with Mark LaSalle, his wife and friends.

It wouldn’t be a Mississippi summer without making a mark at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center. Last year’s visionaries constructed a 16-ft. span octagon wildlife viewing deck with a 100 ft. boardwalk for the Center (Moss Point), and the year before that an even larger wildlife viewing deck. Also in 2009, participants built a second, smaller tower on Turkey Creek, and a handicapped ramp for elder Miss Dorothy; created a mural for the Turkey Creek Community Initiatives “Katrina Trailer”; distributed community outreach newsletters door-to-door and volunteered at the Isaiah Fredericks Senior Center.

VISIONS in The New York Times