Destrehan family pays it forward

Collects supplies for Houston after receiving help from city's residents during Katrina

September 13 at 6:33 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Destrehan family pays it forward
When Brandi LeBlanc saw Hurricane Harvey's devastation in Houston, she readily recalled the generosity they got in an equally destructive storm called Katrina.

“We want to give back to Texas, not only for their generosity towards us in the past, but because we are humans and our hearts really pour out for their suffering,” said the Destrehan owner of nDurance Fitness.

It was 12 years ago when Katrina deluged New Orleans, but LeBlanc vividly recounted how they endured their own disaster of epic proportion.

“Just to see all of that brings back memories,” LeBlanc said.

When Katrina hit, LeBlanc and her husband, Bobby, were visiting family in Houston and the help they got left a lasting impression.

“We got of tons of help from the people of Houston,” she said. “As soon as they found out we were evacuees, it was give, give, give. It was amazing.”

LeBlanc said they even helped them financially.

“My husband was even given work so that he could make money to support us by a business that was not necessarily hiring or needed help,” she said.

The couple couldn’t live in their condo at the time.

Although it had little water damage, they didn’t have electricity or safe water.

When LeBlanc returned to Metairie, she was allowed back into the New Orleans area as essential personnel because she provided dialysis treatment. During her three months there, she lived in a trailer provided by her company at the time and the situation was both harrowing yet revealing about what good people can do to provide relief in a disaster.

“I remember hearing gunshots from the trailer,” she said.LeBlanc was put in fatigues and also worked with the National Guard to help storm-stricken victims and saw firsthand how much the assistance meant to them. The National Guard took care of her, too, by bringing her food and checking on her in the evening.

So when she saw the all-too-familiar disaster in Houston, LeBlanc immediately knew what she was going to do and went to it.

“Most of those people did not evacuate,” she said. “They have to stay and not have the supplies they need, which is why it’s so important we get them supplies.”

She immediately started mobilizing efforts to provide help.

They connected with her brother-in-law, who owns a State Farm, and sister-in-law, who owns a party company, both in Houston. They are working together to coordinate their relief effort.

The families’ homes were not damaged, but they’re still unsure about the status of their businesses.

They’ve created a Facebook page to list the different shelters and needs, which is updated nearly hourly, she said.

In Destrehan, LeBlanc said she is offering her business as a drop-off location for goods. She will pay for the U-Haul and deliver donations. They’re hoping other small, local businesses will help with the cost of additional trucks, gas and, if needed, serve as additional drop-off locations.

Her church, St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, also in Destrehan, has offered to donate and help sort donations.They will deliver donations, including food, pet food and cleaning supplies, on Saturday to Houston.

Once there, LeBlanc said their two children will help them distribute the items, which she considers their way of teaching them about helping others.

She said, “We want to teach them service and how important that is.”

View other articles written Anna Thibodeaux

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