Bonita's Wish to rebuild 1st home

Posted on Mon, Mar. 26, 2007


DIAMONDHEAD - A volunteer organization created to help South Mississippi cancer patients return to their Hurricane Katrina-damaged homes celebrated its first rebuilding project Sunday here at the home of Shirley Paulus.

Bonita's Wish is a small volunteer group of 30 people organized as a way to honor the memory of their friend, Bonita Keely.

With the help of family, friends and volunteers, Keely got her final wish last year and moved back into her newly rebuilt Bay St. Louis home before she lost her battle with cancer at the age of 39.

Sunday would have been Bonita's 40th birthday.

"Everyone who knew Bonita was struck with faith as she battled against cancer and struggled to rebuild her home," said Jeff Parness, one of the founders of Bonita's Wish.

As the first Bonita home recipient, Paulus, a 67-year-old grandmother who has been battling leukemia for the past 10 years, will have her home back soon, too. She has been living in temporary housing in Slidell since the storm.

"These people are incredible, and I can move back in my house in about four weeks," Paulus said.

To commemorate the first Bonita home, Sunday morning services were held in the new home and led by chaplain Steve Holden of the United States Emergency Chaplains Corps. Keely's family members and friends attended the services as well.

"We are going to start small with one house at a time," Parness said. "As we collect more volunteers and more support, we hope to reach out to the other special folks in need and carry on Bonita's legacy."

For information or to volunteer to help the Bonita's Wish organization, go to sunherald .com.

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