A Chauvin family, including two children, sat in a tent adjacent to what was once their home. They were offered water, hot meals, and supplies in which they humbly said, “Our children can share one plate, and we only need one case of water, the rest can go to someone who needs it more.” Despite the family being humble, local Rotarians insisted that they were indeed the ones in need of help.
Part of that group was Rotatarian District 6200 Governor-Elect Tim McNabb, member of The Rotary Club of Downtown Houma, who has first-hand experiences in the bayou regions in which he described it as similar to his experience in Kuwait as a Marine in Desert Storm. “It reminded me of when we entered Kuwait, just the buildings that I recognized were the weird thing. That used to be the bait shop we went to and that used to be where we launched our boat at. It was devastating.” He described mobile homes and houses that were laying on their sides, tossed upside down, or completely exposed with walls and roofs missing. He recalled families that lost homes and are now living on shrimp boats, tents, and makeshift homes that are trying to get their boats running so they can continue their livelihoods to start rebuilding their homes. These people needed help, and they still do.
Tim says he got to know his neighbors differently through the aftermath of Ida. He says it was amazing to see the type of neighbors he has because they’re friendly waving when they see each other, but he says it was amazing to see them go out and help provide food.
He says as the word got out about what Rotary was doing, more people would go to help. They even had people pick up lunch plates and would donate money because they wanted to help the initiative.
It only took a few days for local Rotary Clubs to get started to get resources together to further their reach. Recovery initiatives have been led by The Rotary Club of Downtown Houma, The Rotary Club of Houma, The Rotary Club of Houma-Terrebonne, and the Rotary Club of Houma-Sunrise. “We all have different personalities in these clubs,” Tim says, “but when we all come together, we all work together.”
The Downtown Houma Rotary Club started early with relief efforts when Tim contacted the Rotary’s District 6200 Secretary to see if the district had any plans with assisting those in need. The call led the club to be connected to Abbeville Rotary Club. Abbeville Rotary Club was able to lend a cooking trailer to provide 600 pastalaya meals. After that event, Abbeville Rotary left the trailer for use to continue feeding those in need and they rallied supplies together to help including 950 pounds of ice. Tim says they were able to get some Rotary members together to pick up the ice in ice chests to hand out to residents. Tim says the next day they were able to obtain some perishable items from the local food bank due to the generosity of Rotary member Lawrence DeHart who is the Executive Director of Terrebonne Churches United Food Bank. With the donations, they were able to cook about 300 pounds of chicken, white beans, and 70 pounds of rice that fed 600-700 people.
They also teamed up with the Cajun Navy Ground Force who had a set up in the parking lot by Office Depot in Houma. The Ground Force was getting around 6,000 meals a day shipped from Operational BBQ Relief that consisted of pulled pork, sliced pork loin, or pork roast for the protein and corn, green beans, mixed vegetables, or beans and rice for the side. Rotary was able to obtain some of the meals where they were able to partner with community centers alongside volunteers to get it into the hands of those in need.
The Rotary Clubs were also given ground deer meat and deer meat sausage where they cooked 300 plates of deer meat spaghetti and 650 deer meat tacos. They’ve also cooked red beans and sausage with rice. At this point, Tim says they had other clubs starting to come to help out. The Zachary Rotary Club came to cook 500 plates of fried fish with french fries. When it came to the lower bayou areas that were hit the hardest, it was hard to get to and from those areas. Between no running water, no electricity, and travel taking up to three hours because of traffic, emergency vehicles, and linemen working, so the clubs decided it was best to prepare food then drive down the supplies south to hand out to areas such as Dularge and Dulac. The meal runs consisted of volunteers from the region such as Baton Rouge and New Orleans, which made it possible to hand out food and supplies to families that lived with no electricity and no running water. Out of all of the efforts that were put forth by Rotarians, it was a single flower that was handed from a child that drew tears. A florist donated four boxes of carnations to give out to bring beauty amid the chaos. They were able to get help from children to hand out the flowers along with written encouraging notes. Not only were they able to fill hungry bellies, but they were also able to fill the hearts of residents too.
They were also able to bring a mobile shower facility to the Chauvin Community Center once the community got running water. The facility has a tankless water heater, two separate showers, and two separate changing rooms. The showers were first brought for use by the Houma Police Department because the officers were on duty during and after Ida where they had no place to take showers. After the area had electricity and running water, they were able to find a new location at the Chauvin Community Center thanks to Councilman Dirk Guidry. They are actively moving the facility to the areas that need it most.
The Rotary Club of Downtown Houma has also adopted Legion Park Elementary School which Tim says is one of the poorest schools in the district. The school has “The Early Act,” that Tim described as the Rotary of elementary schools. The teacher contacted the Rotary Club to share an idea where they wanted to check in on the students to see how they are doing and to make sure they have a hot meal. The Rotary Club cooked hamburgers and hot dogs, cleaning supplies available for distribution along with backpacks with school supplies, and Brookes Sno-World gave out free snowballs. The school did receive major damage, so this particular event was an oasis for the community.
Now that various companies, organizations, and volunteers are cooking and able to meet the community needs, the Rotary Clubs are finding that communities are needing cleaning supplies more than before which is a good sign of areas moving into a recovery process. They have already started to include buckets, mops, bleach, and brooms along with the food distributions, but they are also looking into utilizing Rotary’s Emergency Response trailers that have wheelbarrows, shovels, rakes, chainsaws, weed eaters, so they can help residents with the cleanup process. They would like to start focusing on clean up in the public parks because of the importance of having a safe place to go and relax, “we’re just trying to come up with ways to help the community get back on its feet,” Tim says, “our philosophy is the faster they can get back home and to work and back to normalcy, the faster our economy comes back, and it’s better for everybody.”
They also have been spreading the word of efforts on social media along with Venmo (and CashApp accounts which have raised close to $6,000 to help with overhead costs. Contact Tim McNabb at 985.856.4042 for donations.
Tim made a valid point, with the amount of damage and debris, coastal Louisiana is in for a long rebuilding period. “It’s heartbreaking,” he says, “There are people out there who are still washing their kids on the porch in buckets.” People want to be out on their properties to start cleaning up, but there’s a process, and it will take a while.
He says he wants people to know how great of a community we have when it comes down to taking care of each other. “It was friends, neighbors, strangers, anybody who saw what we were doing, jumped in, and helped out,” he says, “I’m not worried about if we can recover, I’m a little worried about how long it’s going to take, it’s a lot of damage, but I definitely have faith in this community. We have good people here and we’ll be back up and as strong as ever.