"My family can't live like this. If it wasn't for the help of the community when we first go there, I don't know where we would be today," says Hurricane Katrina victim Emanuel Williams.
For Williams and other Hurricane Katrina survivors, the past year has been anything but ordinary. Williams has been unemployed since the storm hit and is struggling to provide for his wife and two children.
"It's really been rough because financially, we are getting no assistance. I actually had to go without buying my son's school clothes for the start of high school this year," Williams says.
"I really can't explain it because I'm at a standstill," adds Katrina survivor Bernadette Washington.
A year after the worst natural disaster in our nation's history, the Gulf Coast still hasn't recovered. Jon McNary was one of the many Heartland Church members to make the trip. He recalls what it was like in Mississippi six months ago.
"You can hardly tell anything's happened, so its amazing to think a year's gone by and they're still just starting the recovery process," McNary says.
Williams and his family went back to New Orleans for the first time three months ago.
"It was heartbreaking because a lot of our neighbors, families that stayed behind, we see them grouped together in mobile homes, we see all the businesses destroyed," Williams says.
He was one of the 51 evacuees who arrived in Rockford in September of 2005. He was excited to start a new life here, and a year later he has no plans on leaving our community.
"Since the day we stepped off the plane, even though we never heard about Rockford, Illinois, from the day we stepped off the plane we fell in love," Williams says.
In spite of that, he says the storm and our new community members shouldn't be far from our minds.
"I really feel like we've been forgotten. Its hard enough to lose everything, but its even harder to try to start over and not have a step to step on," he says.
Williams is continuing his job search but says his current financial situation has made it difficult for him to even afford to fill his car with gas.
For more information on how you can help out the Williams family, call the WIFR 23 newsroom at (815) 987-5330.