On any given Saturday, it could be a donation drive in Destrehan to connect people whose lives have been turned upside down with the resources they need.
Or perhaps on a Sunday, it might come in the form of a free community camp for the children in Hahnville, providing a bit of normalcy. Another day might see volunteers handing out water on Ormond Blvd., or cleaning supplies in the corner of Ama.
The We MADE organization is multi-tasking in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, and then some. The non-profit was started by Hahnville High alum and former NFL wide receiver LaRon Byrd as a way to enrich his home community in a variety of ways. And following one of the greatest disasters the St. Charles Parish and surrounding communities have experienced, it’s given the group a redirected focus, if not a completely new one.
We MADE has delivered various supplies to every town in St. Charles Parish since the storm. It’s members have helped with cleanup efforts and even handed out ice cream – a cold treat no doubt appreciated by those who were going without power.
The group has always been about connecting families, and especially youth, with the right resources to succeed, Byrd said, and this is simply a different form of it.
“We try to make a difference every day,” said Byrd. “We bring education, health and fitness information, job training skills … and now, obviously, a lot of structures got out of whack, so all we’re doing is emphasising that direct resource part. Gathering materials and getting it to the people who need them. Every day, it’s different resources to different parts of the area. We’ve been pretty active. We’re just following our model.”
It hasn’t just been St. Charles Parish that’s garnered a helping hand from We MADE. St. John and St. James parishes have as well, and also Lafourche Parish, where the group distributed meals at a local library. In St. James, another recent event saw 300 plates of food served, along with supplies, personal items, shoes and other items.
“With power lines down, people couldn’t get different places without vehicles or gas … areas swamped with water,” Byrd said. “We just want people here in this state to know, we’ve got them. This is a community, a family, and we’re proud to help any way we can.”
Byrd himself rode out the storm along with members of the team.
“Our facility was actually pretty good shelter,” Byrd said. “But it suffered a lot of damage. There’s been a lot of work from home (since). It was a scary experience. Some of (Byrd’s family) evacuated, but we didn’t think the storm would be as bad as it ended up being. I mean, out here, it never looked like that even when Katrina came. 35 minutes away, it did. But it hit pretty direct, here, and you see the impact.”
Now 32, Byrd retired from the NFL at age 29 due to injury, and since has continued to focus more and more on service to his home community. For We MADE to be in place and able to help after such a disaster, Byrd spoke of it as a calling.
“It means the vision came true,” Byrd said. “To be able to help so many people … it’s a total team effort. The ladies and gentlemen in the organization, it’s them. Their work, their planning, they put those pieces of the puzzle together. What I’m most proud of is that when something like this happens, everyone comes together like it’s another day at the office, and hopefully make a difference for somebody.”
Donations – either monetary or supplies – for distribution to areas in need can be made a few different ways. Monetary donations can be made by contacting Courtney Becnel at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the organization’s website at wemadeorganization.com. Supplies can be dropped off at We MADE’s headquarters at 111 River Oaks Drive in Luling, off of Hwy. 90.