“Mailbox Muffins and Other Recipes from the Gulf Coast Homeless” was developed by Gulf Coast residents like Bobby Kelly as a testament to their ingenuity and pride, even in the worst of situations. Every dollar earned will be used to further the mission of Oregon Place. On August 28, 2005, a 28-foot storm surge crashed onto the Gulf Coast, delivering 55-foot sea waves and hurricane-force winds. Miraculously, in the woods just outside Gulfport, Miss. amid broken trees, debris and devastation, a tiny tent survived. For more than 8 years, it had been the place that Bobby, an out-of-work laborer and his girlfriend, Jennifer, called home. They didn’t have a radio, so they never knew the storm was coming.
Throughout the night, they managed to survive by clinging to the porch of a nearby house. The next day, when the winds calmed and they returned to their tent, it had somehow survived.
Today, Bobby and Jennifer live in a modern, air-conditioned apartment in Gulfport’s Oregon Place, where Bobby is working on his high school equivalency. He and Jennifer are making a new and better life, just like thousands of their fellow Mississippians. Folks like Bobby don’t waste anything. Cans are used as cooking pots, and a discarded mailbox placed above a cook fire became their improvised oven, into which tuna fish cans filled with donated mix became containers for muffins. Hard as life has been for Bobby, he’s one of the lucky ones, and he knows it. Statewide, Katrina killed at least 235 people.Oregon Place has given Bobby, Jennifer and countless others a chance to do just that. It’s an innovative new experiment in low-income housing, supported mostly through private donations. It affords proud, determined people to remake their lives, finish their educations and move toward a better tomorrow.