Katrina Evacuees Overcoming the Storm - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Flowood 08/29/06

Katrina Evacuees Overcoming the Storm

By Roslyn Anderson

Thousands of Katrina evacuees have started over in the Jackson area.

Each has a different story, but all have a common bond.

Two gulf coast families are overcoming the storm and rebuilding their lives.

In 1987 Jeff and Cheryl Blackstock took a family recipe for pralines and opened Aunt V's Candies in Gulfport, building it into a successful fixture in the coastal city.

Cheryl Blackstock said, "We made a thousand a day down there."

In minutes on August 29th 2005 Hurricane Katrina changed their lives.

The 43 year old business owner said, "We know people on our street died that stayed, and we know if we had stayed we probably would have died."

The Gulfport couple and their three children lost their home and 90% of their customer base.

The Blackstocks took stock while living with family in Pearl and decided to do what they do best in Flowood.

"They've welcomed us with open arms. Everybody in the Jackson area has been very kind", Blackstock said.

Starting over has been tough and so is the anniversary of the tragic storm.

Walking down the aisle of thier Flowood store she said, "It's a day I kinda dread."

But they do have hope for the future.

"We hope to put a store back on the coast. That's the goal. We're kind of waiting till the people come back", Blackstock added.

While the future looks bright for some evacuees, for others there is still a daily struggle.

Coastal transplant Narquita Lewis chokes back tears as she thinks of the life she once had.

She said, "Sometimes I can talk about it. Sometimes I can't. It was unbelievable."

After losing their Bay St. Louis home, Narquita  and her husband Don started over in Madison, grateful for the lives of their seven children and one grandchild and a settlement from FEMA.

Another blow came Christmas Eve when fire destroyed their rental home.

"We don't have the same things that we had before. That's material stuff that will come, but we have each other", Lewis said.

Her husband is working construction in Meridian.  

Narquita and the children are in Jackson.

The former casino employee is looking for work.

She said, "It's hard to find a job that will pay you decent and also work with you and your family."

Faith in God and family is helping them recover.

The Katrina survivor said, "We plan on making our home here and hopefully everything will be back in order."

The Blackstocks will open a Ridgeland location at Trace Station in mid September.

The Lewis's plan to buy a home and Narquita hopes to finish nursing school.

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