“A powerful lesson:” Disaster relief teams headed back to areas devastated by Katrina

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BROOKFIELD -- Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina brought destruction to the Gulf Coast. Members of one Milwaukee-area church scrambled to send a team to help residents get back on their feet. Now some of those team members are headed back south.

"We didn't have a disaster relief community at that time. For me personally, I just couldn't stand watching it anymore. You know, I watched it and I watched it and I watched it. And you know, it was on the news every minute," said Mary Ann Lee, Disaster Relief Coordinator at Elmbrook Church.

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From those small beginnings came a major relief effort.

"We took a semi, we took 16 people and we brought food, clothes, water, all kinds of things," said Lee.

The Brookfield-based Elmbrook Church would send 26 teams to help clean up and rebuild over a span of five years.

"It was a powerful lesson in being the church," said Lee. "Whether we were handing out toilet paper, cooking soup or you know, dragging wet stuff out to the street, it just felt like the right thing to do."

During that time, the Elmbrook crews developed a close partnership with a small church that was spearheading some of the disaster relief efforts.

"I think in the eyes of Biloxi, they're a huge church because they've done all this you know, for their own community," said Lee.

The bond between the two churches remains strong.

This weekend, a few of Elmbrook's original volunteers are now headed back to help celebrate the area's recovery.

"I can't wait to get on that plane because when we get off the plane we're going to see our dear friends again," said Lee.

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