Hopeless. This is a word I used describe my feelings on Saturday, August 13 – the day in which my hometown in Louisiana experienced unprecedented flooding. Family and friends were forced out of their homes, while many had to be rescued from their homes as water rose quickly to heights never seen before. By the time the weekend was over, much of south-central and southeastern Louisiana was under water.
Resilient. Determined. Community. These three words describe how Louisianans have approached their new reality. My wife and I spent this past weekend in Baton Rouge helping my parents gut their home (13 inches) and in Denham Springs helping a dear friend and his family gut their home (7 feet). One thing that stood out to me was how everyone – literally everyone – that we came across was not despondent. Rather, they were ready to begin the cleanout and rebuilding processes. There was nothing they could do about the flood – it happened. But what they could do – and did with such energy – was to pick up where the flood left off. It was amazing – Louisianans did not sit around waiting for the government’s help or for the media to arrive for national attention. Instead, they strapped up their boots and got to work.
Even more amazing is the strong sense of community, particularly in an area that recently witnessed the Alton Sterling tragedy and the subsequent ambush of Baton Rouge cops. There have been stories of African Americans helping whites, and whites helping African Americans. My hometown pastor wrote of how he, along with others, were stranded on I-12 for 30 hours. Instead of stranded drivers remaining isolated in their vehicles and stewing in their frustration, a trucker cooked rice and shared with neighboring cars, a Hispanic family shared their snacks, and a woman handed out fresh produce that she had. Another man set up his grills, someone else provided steak and pork for a meal. In reflecting upon this scene, my pastor states: “Stranded travelers of different colors, cultures, jobs and backgrounds became a community in the middle of the interstate who cared for each other with much kindness. Never did I hear aggravation, frustration or foul language.” This story is just one of many that illustrate the overall sense of cooperation and community among the residents of Louisiana impacted by the flood. And yet, little has been said to this end by the national media.
As Louisianans jumped into the cleaning out process, the nation’s citizens moved quickly to donate cleaning supplies, food, clothing, and other necessities that impacted families lost in the deluge. It was amazing to see the outpouring of support by individuals, churches, and organizations. The Red Cross was indeed a presence in flood-impacted areas, but so were the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams from surrounding states, assisting Southern Baptist members and the community with cleaning out and mudding out homes, and with spraying for mold (all free!). Area churches and companies were mobilized as donation centers and shelters, while high schools across the state trucked in supplies to flooded schools. In a time of great need, Louisiana’s citizens were met by fellow countrymen ready to lend a hand.
See this great article by Foundation for Economic Education on the role of private disaster relief in Louisiana: “In Louisiana, Private Disaster Relief Outperforms the Government“.
A helpful article on the response of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team.
The video below, shot by my wife, illustrates the outpouring of donations. This donation center is set up at New Covenant Church in Denham Springs (www.newcovenantds.com):
Despite the outpouring of support for the flood victims, I had a growing concern for needs that will be difficult for Louisianans to meet in the upcoming weeks. After homes completely dry out, there will be a great demand for materials like Sheetrock, drywall mud and tape, trowels, nails, and 2×4’s, among other building materials. As I was driving home from Louisiana, I was reflecting upon how it was difficult to locate a simple tile chisel in area hardware stores. All I needed was one chisel in order to remove the tile from my parents bathrooms. Unfortunately, they were sold out pretty much everywhere. The one we did fine was not the right kind. The thought struck me on Monday that, if I had difficulty locating a tile chisel, how much harder will it be for flood victims to find the necessary materials to begin rebuilding in the next few weeks? That is, with the sheer number of people who have had to gut their homes, supplies will be in high demand, setting up a first-come, first-serve scenario. For some, the rebuilding timeline will depend solely upon the availability of building materials.
Another factor to consider is the number of people who did not have flood insurance. Please note that, unlike New Orleans, the rest of Louisiana is not below sea level. In fact, there are numerous areas that were not flood zones that did flood. Though we do experience a lot of rain (relative to other areas of the country), flooding of the magnitude seen August 12-21 is an anomaly – not the norm. Thus, citizens who have never flooded (and therefore did not need flood insurance) experience perhaps the worst flooding known to this area. I say all this to highlight this point: there will be many flood victims who will not get the funding they need to rebuild. FEMA will only pay so much (not the full cost), thus uninsured flood vicitms will have to pay out of pocket for materials. For many, rebuilding will be a difficult and drawn-out process as they purchase materials when they are able to. For others, rebuilding will be near impossible due to their financial situation.
The following video, shot by my wife, shows my best friend’s house as we clean up from 7 feet of flood water. The amazing thing about this clean up is the number of helpers that my friend did not know. Several were volunteers who just showed up to help.
The need is clear: Louisianans need help rebuilding. We are at a time when the nation’s attention is being turned away to new crises and events, pushing the Louisiana flood to the recesses of our collective memory. But now is the time when Louisiana’s flood victims need us most. When the cleaning supplies are no longer needed, clothing and necessities have been restored, and the ability to obtain food secured, Louisiana will still be in need. The box stores and small hardware stores will be able to stock needed building supplies, but these will only go so far. We can help fill in the gap when supplies are low. We can still play a significant role in Louisiana’s recovery – a role that will last for the next several months until homes, businesses, schools, and churches are restored to pre-flood condition.
I am currently working on a plan to aid in the donation of building supplies to Louisiana flood victims. Until this plan has been formalized, I encourage you to check out donating to area churches and organizations, earmarking your donations for building supplies. You can check out the Red Cross and other government-run organizations, but I’m more inclined to work with individuals and private organizations, as they have a better feel of the pulse of their immediate surrounding community. Further, they will have a better sense of what is needed most, as needs vary from location to location.
Please check back soon for more information on how you can help. If you’re unsure where to begin in locating a donation site or organization, please fill out the contact form below and I will work on setting you up with the right contact.
Stay tuned! Let’s help Louisiana rebuild!