“We still have so many people who need help … we still have calls coming in every single day for help.”
Kacy Kernan, director of community impact for United Way St. Charles, said the faith-based organizations who came to the parish after Hurricane Ida to help storm victims have not been short on work.
“We had them in place probably by like the middle of September,” she said. “There’s no way we could have accomplished what we have without them.”
While Mennonite Disaster Services provided recovery efforts for approximately five weeks post Ida, NEHCAMA Jewish Response to Disaster and its partner organization International Orthodox Christian Charities are still in the area working with homeowners in need.
“United Way is working on providing a grant to keep them here until the end of March,” Kernan said.
Executive Director for United Way of St. Charles John Dias said UWSC is incredibly thankful and appreciative to the groups.
“These groups have really performed herculean tasks in helping to clean up and begin to restore our community,” Dias said.
NEHCAMA Operations Director Dorothy Maples said the organizations have been welcomed with open arms.
“The St. Charles Parish community is extraordinarily hospitable … they welcomed us in like family,” she said, adding this is the groups’ first time serving St. Charles Parish. “It is not unusual for the homeowners to treat us to a delicious meal, shows of appreciation and stories of their history here. The community looks out for each other too. A large number of the homes we work on were referred to us by family and friends of homeowners we worked with early on. It is such a tight-knit community.”
Maples said the work crews have not been short on nourishment.
“They always find us and bring us food,” she said of the homeowners. “The St. Charles Parish community goes above and beyond to show their appreciation, and the feeling is mutual.”
Maples added that UWSC has been critical to the groups’ success here.
“The partnership allows us to continue supporting the St. Charles community during their time of need,” she said. “Our NECHAMA/IOCC team keeps them on speed dial and they are a text away if we need anything … they have become true friends.”
The NECHAMA/IOCC team assists homeowners with removing damaged belongings and building material out of their homes after natural disasters and prioritize cases based on the greatest need.
“In an area like Louisiana where it is hot and humid, the dangers of mold and mildew growing inside a house after a hurricane are a dangerous reality,” Maples said. “It is our job to remove that material that is a threat to spread mold or is already damaged and starting to mildew. This is done with the goal of getting the homeowner and their family back int their home, safely, so they can still have shelter while waiting for a rebuild team.”
The reason the work is important, Maples said, is because it is important to show up for people.
“We all have our stories of why we join disaster response organizations … something that touched us deeply in our lives and gives us the overwhelming desire to want to give back” she said. “For me, it was the destruction of my hometown of Joplin, Missouri in May 2011, and all the people who came to give back, who showed up in our time of need.”
Kernan said that any St. Charles Parish homeowner who would like to request assistance from the groups can email her at email@example.com or message the UWSC Facebook page.