Wood chips clung to Rich Beeler's sweat-soaked T-shirt as his chain saw gouged into a limb of a downed pine tree.
The limb fell onto a growing pile, and Mr. Beeler did his best to wipe the sweat from his eyes while taking a break from the brutal Mississippi sun.
It is a long way from the Fort Wayne, Ind., Rescue Mission. But for Beeler, going to Mississippi was a chance to give back to the people who have stuck by him.
A few months ago, Beeler sought help and admitted himself to a drug rehabilitation program at the mission, having realized he needed to change to save his marriage and his life.
"Reaching out and helping everybody is such a good feeling because I haven't done it for so long," he said.
He had spent his life on the road, delivering concert T-shirts for rock bands. "If they were big in the '80s or '90s those were my shirts," he says.
He settled in Fort Wayne, where he developed a nasty drug habit.
"I'm not a fool, but I've done foolish things," he admits.
When the opportunity arose, Beeler jumped at the chance to join a group from the Hope Crisis Response Network going to Gulfport, Miss., for a week of work. The crew of 17 included five other men from the rescue mission.
The Hoosiers headed south in early October to clear timber, gut houses, put new roofs on homes and churches, and do other rebuilding tasks.
The group gathered outside at the end of the day to reflect on how the work affected them.
Everyone agreed there was much that needed to be done, but they expressed satisfaction in making people's lives better.
Beeler saw the week in a larger context, as a step toward his new life.
"This has brought a lot of pride and joy in my life, and that is what I need and what I am seeking," he said.