Benny Cenac: Houma Will Weather This Storm Together
I live in a small, close community. Houma, Louisiana is a town where your neighbors are always there for you through thick and thin. Together we’ve endured hardships , celebrated joyful events, and weathered storms. Now, we are facing a pandemic, and must find a way to do that together, even when we are apart and kept at a distance.
This town has been my home for my whole life and my father and grandfather lived here before me. From the excitement of Mardi Gras parades to the aftermath of Katrina, I know that our community can get through the hardships ahead.
I am the CEO one of the largest private employers in Houma: Cenac Marine Services and Cenac Companies, Main Iron Works. When the Novel Coronavirus reached the U.S. and national, state, and local governments began to take action to prevent its spread, we immediately took precautions to protect our workers and community. We severely limited all outside visitors to our facilities and ensured that everyone felt comfortable self-quarantining if necessary. While I focused on ensuring the safety of Cenac employees and families, I watched the news to determine how I could best ensure safety. I knew that if things continued along the path they were going, the city I loved would be impacted severely.
As of last Sunday, Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes have each reported several cases of COVID-19 and we have all been told to stay at home as much as possible. Louisiana, according to Governor John Bel Edwards, is experiencing the fastest growth of new coronavirus cases in the world. While I worry about Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, and the whole state of Louisiana, I know we are not helpless. Because our community is strong and willing to pull together, I know that Houma is going to be ok. In that spirit, I signed a pledge, along with thousands of other CEOs, to take bold action in combatting the spread of coronavirus. I committed to incorporate a work-from-home environment where possible, support first responders and healthcare workers, ask employees not to host or attend social events, and commit time to supporting state and local communities.
We have done all of this at Cenac, and I hope fellow business in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes will do the same. As we work together to ensure that our employees have everything they need to stay safe, we must also ensure that their families and vulnerable members of our community are also protected.
According to a new Brookings study, 29% of Houma jobs are at high risk. This is a scary prospect, but it isn’t inevitable. There are ways that people in Houma can help each other pull through:
- Support local businesses in the area by calling your favorite local business or reaching out on social media to buy gift cards to support them in this time of need.
- Donate to local foodbanks. Most foodbanks are asking for cash donations, rather than canned goods. Some local foodbanks in need are the Terrebonne Churches United foodbank, Plymouth Rock Baptist Church foodbank, and Good Samaritan Foodbank Terrebonne.
- Donate to the Nicholls Campus Emergency Foundation. This fund helps students, faculty, and staff in times of need, providing food and other services under unusual circumstances such as the coronavirus.
- Donate to the Bayou Community Fund, an organization I’ve supported for years. This fund is the only community foundation specifically and solely serving Lafourche Parish, Terrebonne Parish, and Grand Isle, Louisiana. They are now accepting donations specifically earmarked for COVID-19 relief.
- If you have kids, reach out to your friends and neighbors with kids who may be stuck at home, looking for activities. Have your kids play Monopoly over FaceTime or help each other with homework.
- Reach out to your neighbors and don’t underestimate the toll that loneliness can take. We all need each other in this unprecedented time.
Louisiana and Houma are facing a lot of challenges right now, but there is a lot we can do to help our neighbors get through this. For nearly 80 years my company has been based here in Houma and Cenac is committed to the safety and health of our employees and the community. Together, we will weather this storm.