How you can help flood victims, even while you’re on vacation
The people of Louisiana are nothing if not resilient. Case in point, there is a local news clip making the rounds of a reporter covering the devastating flooding in the Baton Rouge area and a young boy takes the spotlight, dancing and smiling in the background. Social media comments on the video are mostly grateful to the boy for reminding us that even through disaster, we still know how to dance and live life.
It’s that sense of joie de vive that brings tourists to New Orleans and Southern Louisiana in the first place. We have a different perspective on life here. It influences our culture in every way and seeps into the consciousness of our visitors if they allow it.
The sad fact as of press time is that 20 parishes (counties) are now covered under a federal disaster declaration in response to the 1000-year rain event that has caused historic flooding. According to Gov. John Bel Edwards at a briefing Tuesday, more than 40,000 residents have now signed up for federal assistance and over 30,000 people have been rescued since Saturday. The death toll is at least 11 and likely to rise.
What is there to be joyful about in this?
Now is when we take solace in the human urge to help others. Stories of the “Cajun Navy” using their personal vehicles and resources to rescue people, pets and livestock are in the local news. A man bringing his smoker on a trailer to a shelter and cooking brisket for hundreds of people made the national press. And the social media feeds of locals are filled with calls to action for donations and locations where they items can be left.
New Orleans was spared with this go-round, and we are thanking Our Lady of Prompt Succor and whatever other entities folks believe in. Our tourists are safe and our hospitality industry is safe, so we want to help the residents in the parishes to the west of us, just as so many of them helped New Orleanians after Katrina.
Whether you’re a resident or a visitor to New Orleans, you are on the front lines of making a difference for thousands of people in need. Here’s what you can do:
1. Go to the store and purchase items such as the following: hygiene products like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, baby wipes, adult diapers; children’s items including diapers, wipes, pacifiers, bottles, and kid’s activities such as books, crayons, stickers, coloring books, etc.; clean bedding and air mattresses with pumps; pet food and pet shampoo; and non-perishable/no-cook food items such as bottled water, baby formula, canned tuna, peanut butter, jelly, etc. Spend whatever you can afford. Even $10 worth of these items is impactful.
2. Bring those items to a local business that is collecting donations to transport to the affected areas. Grab a drink and drop off your donations at bars like The Rusty Nail or Finn McCool’s. Buy a t-shirt at Dirty Coast and leave your items there. Treat yourself to fine jewelry at Mignon Faget and make your donation there. Call your chosen location first to be sure they are still accepting donations. Here’s a list as of Aug. 15 of additional places collecting items.
3. Tell your friends. There is currently a lack of national and international news coverage about the flooding. So tell your friends in Illinois, South Dakota, Germany and India that the people of Southern Louisiana need help. Thousands are homeless and are about to start the long journey of clean up, demolition and rebuilding. A reputable charity making an immediate difference is Second Harvest Food Bank. They have the network and access to buy food and distribute the food donations to residents. Making a charitable donation online to them will help now and into the future.
If you take any part of our culture with you after your visit, let it be the part where we pull each other up when we fall, and often sing a song while doing so.