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Rotarians help Katrina-ravaged town rebound

BAY ST LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - The Bay St. Louis Community Hall  is now open. There was a ribbon cutting ceremony in front of the front steps Friday evening.

There is a real 'WOW' factor, when you walk into the building. To say the least, it is very impressive in both design and size.

It's about 15,000 square feet, with several rooms of various sizes. The price tag was $5 million, but best of all, it cost the city and county nothing.

"It was truly a worldwide effort," former Mayor Eddie Favre said.

More than $2 million came from the Mississippi Development Authority, but when Favre said it was a worldwide effort, he was not kidding. Just ask Bob Warner about that.

Warner and Favre knew each other as kids growing up. Warner moved to Jonesboro, Arkansas, years ago.

When he first came here weeks after Katrina hit, he mobilized members of his Rotary where he lives in Arkansas, and they brought to Bay St. Louis, tractor trailer loads of supplies and various other items that were needed. But Warner, and some of his fellow Rotarians wanted to do more.

Although he insists that others should get the credit, Warner spearheaded an effort that raised $1 million from Rotary Clubs all around the world, to help pay for the building.

"I think it is a tangible representation of what I sort of learned about the Bay and all of the coast and New Orleans, is that the human spirit really can't be defeated," Warner said.

Among the many people in the crowd for the gala event, was the Reverend Jeffrey Reed. He is the councilman in the ward where the Community Hall is located, but he also grew up just a few hundred feet from the center.

He feels it can only add to the charm of the area, which is just down the street from the train depot. He also called it an economic stimulus not just for his ward, but the entire city and county.

Just before the ribbon cutting took place, Bay St. Louis Rotarian Corky Hadden said the intent in building the Community Hall was to have a place that would give the community a sense of pride and be a great gathering space for many years to come, as well as serve as a beacon of recovery.

Suffice to say, it was a job well done. The center can be rented through the city of Bay St. Louis. They already have 32 bookings for this year and anticipate many more in coming weeks.

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