Bayou Community Foundation (BCF) and the Greater New Orleans Foundation joined residents, state and parish leaders, and nonprofit partners yesterday in celebrating the completion of the first two homes built in Dulac through the Foundation’s Hurricane Ida recovery programs.
The homes were made possible through many sponsors, donors, volunteers, and community partners. One of the partners is Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) who built the homes thanks to an $850,000 grant from BCF’s Bayou Recovery Fund for Hurricane Ida Relief, which includes a $300,000 matching grant from Greater New Orleans Foundation’s Hurricane Ida Disaster Response & Restoration Fund along with support from the Governor’s Hurricane Ida Relief and Recovery Fund, plus other donors. The grant funds are used to purchase building materials, while the construction labor is provided at no cost by MDS volunteers. Homeowners also contribute insurance or FEMA proceeds received toward construction costs, and appliances are donated by a nonprofit, Rebuilding Together Bayou.
The grant allows MDS to construct ten new houses and complete 40 or more major home repairs in Dulac which work will last through the end of May. This is allowing 50 needy families to be able to return home after Ida ravaged the area. MDS has also completed 36 home demolitions.
President and CEO of Greater New Orleans Foundation Andy Kopplin said they were in Dulac immediately following the storm and were giving grants to nonprofits that were the first responders by providing food and shelter to survivors living in cars, tents, and damaged housing. “It’s the most necessary work of all but it also leaves you unsettled because you don’t have a long term plan,” Kopplin told The Times, “ The best part about our job in disaster recovery is actually helping rebuild because it gives people hope, and when you see these houses come up, they’re symbols of one family at a time of people coming back home, and in some cases, being able to build back stronger and have more resilient homes and be more hurricane resistant. That’s the future we want for along the bayou, and we were just thrilled to be asked to partner with the Bayou Community Foundation to support this project, we also want to thank the Mennonite Disaster Service and all of the volunteers for their great work.”
The homes range from two to three bedrooms and are built for storm resiliency as part of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes “Strong Homes Initiative.” The Strong Homes provide donated services along with products that upgrade homes to be the IBHS Fortified hurricane wind standard. The homes are rated to withstand up to 160 MPH winds and are elevated well above the FEMA requirements.
Today’s ceremony celebrated the completion of the Parfait home. Abraham and Robin Parfait, along with their two sons, lost their home along with all of their belongings after Hurricane Ida’s winds ripped off the roof of their family home. They later learned about the MDS program which Abraham Parfait said they thank God and all of the generous donors and volunteers who have helped rebuild their home. At the ceremony, Abraham Parfait tearfully hugged MDS Chairman Mannie Flaud and said, “The stuff you got is the cross you carry. Don’t be scared to let somebody grab your cross and walk away with it because sometimes it’s just too heavy for us to bear. I didn’t know they had people like Manny in the world to take it off of your shoulders, Amen.”
According to a BCF press release, one major donor to the BCF Bayou Recovery Fund has announced a challenge grant to continue fund continued home rebuilding and repair work in Dulac this fall. The Ray & Kay Eckstein Charitable Trust Fund has committed $500,000 to support the project with the challenge that BCF raise an additional $500,000, providing at least $1 million to fund another building season with MDS beginning in October 2022.
“The Eckstein family has been a very generous donor to the Bayou Recovery Fund since Hurricane Ida made landfall, and this new $500,000 challenge grant from the Ray & Kay Eckstein Charitable Trust is another significant, impactful investment in our bayou communities’ recovery,” said BCF Executive Director Jennifer Armand, “we invite other donors to join us in meeting this challenge and raise at least $1 million to build many more homes over the next year for the neediest of our neighbors left homeless by Hurricane Ida.”
During the dedication ceremony, another donation announcement was made. President of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation Michael Tipton explained the foundation is a health foundation that was founded in the late 1980s with the goal of making sure children have access to healthcare. It has since grown with the foundation wanting to do more resulting in providing grants to not only help children but communities. Tipton explained in March 2020 they created the Community Crisis and Disaster Relief Grant Fund and set aside $5 million for the fund. Little did they know, the COVID pandemic would last longer than expected, then Hurricane Laura hit Southwest Louisiana, and then that very next year, Hurricane Ida would impact an entire region. Just in the last two years, Tipton said the fund has had $15 million in disaster relief grants on top of around $8 million in long-term grants. “We are proud of that investment and we are certainly committed to continuing to do that work,” he said. He said one of their great partners has been the Bayou Community Foundation and they have invested north of $4 million in the region and then announced they are donating another $250,000 to BCF for the ongoing housing recovery.
The first two homes completed represent a symbol of hope. Ida shook our community, however, we are bayou strong, and continue to rebuild.