Several Destrehan families are proving that there really is no place like home for the holidays … even after Hurricane Ida changed what that home may look like.
Destrehan resident Ashley Braud and her family – as well as several other Madewood Drive families – recently celebrated the Christmas season with a mini block party of holiday festivities.
“It all started when my 5-year-old daughter Gracelyn asked if we could have a Christmas party with all her friends on the block,” Braud said. “It started with planning something simple like a book swap.”
Braud said the party took a grander shape when more and more neighbors realized that there was no way they would be able to put a Christmas tree up in their homes – homes that they are still inhabiting but that are construction zones because of damage sustained in Hurricane Ida.
“We decided to get one large tree and we said, ‘Well, it can be everybody’s tree,’” Braud said. “I ordered a bunch of outdoor-safe ornaments and we all got together. The kids painted some things. It’s safe to say there were about 50 of us including adults. We’ve just all been so stressed out … it was just a chance to hang out with our friends.”
Braud said the neighbors ate dinner together before roasting s’mores.
“It was a very nice change of pace,” she said. “I think our ultimate goal was just to keep the Christmas spirit alive. I think this will become a new tradition. The kids are definitely excited about the tree … since that night Gracelyn hasn’t said ‘our house is broken’ anymore.”
Just one street over, the Escobar family did everything that they could to make Christmas 2021 one to remember, even in the midst of adverse circumstances.
“We have roof damage, siding damage and our whole chimney structure came off the back of the house which caused it to rain in our house,” Christine Escobar said of the damage her home sustained in Hurricane Ida. “Our whole house is gutted and the contractor said to plan to be in camper until June.”
Christine said she and her husband were determined to do everything that they could to still make it a fun Christmas season for their two children.
“My kids have been through so much,” she said. “The past six years my kids have dealt with me having cancer and multiple surgeries. Then three years ago we had to redo the whole inside of our house do to the duct work to air conditioning leaking and cause our entire house to be filled with mold … now they are out of their house again. I just want them to see that something bad might happen but you can always find the joy in every situation.”
Escobar said to see her children’s faces light up with the small things – like a Christmas tree placed outside of their camper – is worth it.
“They have never complained,” she said. “It is so important to stick together as a family during these times so you can have that family unit. My kids saw us giving Thanksgiving baskets during Thanksgiving, and they see us helping others even though we need help. I hope they remember the feeling of giving this Christmas. My kids deserve the world – as so many kids do – and my husband and I just feel it is important to make sure they keep the Christmas spirit this year.”
Escobar said she and her husband have been through so much, and that they keep reminding each other that God would not give them anything that they couldn’t handle.
“God has a purpose and a plan, and we are rolling with it,” she said.