Aid effort brings first-hand view of devastation

Published 3:00 am Thursday, September 15, 2016

Last Thursday, a trailer truck and a van both loaded with items collected for Louisiana flood victims by The Christian Love Center left Troy for one of the hardest hit areas of the Bayou State.

Lawanda Bell, center youth coordinator, did not know her experience there would be life changing.

“I knew going to Louisiana and seeing the devastation first hand would affect me but I didn’t know how much,” Bell said. “I had seen the devastation on television but, until I saw it, I couldn’t begin to realize what it’s like.”

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Bell said the 18-wheeler transported more than 500 pairs of shoes, clothing and the bulk of the toiletry items, bottled water and energy drinks to a drop-off location.

“But we also carried a lot toiletry times, bottled water and Gatorade in the van,” she said. “We were able to deliver those items directly to the homeless people in Denham Springs and talk with them.”

Even though a picture is worth a thousand words, Bell said it was not until she stepped out of the van into the stench that permeated the entire area, that she got the real picture.

“The smell was unbearable,” she said. “Everybody had on masks. That’s the only way you could stay there. Everything was soaked – couches, bedding – and flies were everywhere. It’s hard to describe what it’s like for those people who are trying to rebuild their homes and their lives.”

Bell said the flood damage was so widespread that even homeowners, who had flood insurance, were beginning to make repairs to their homes before the insurance adjusters arrived.

“People were going through what remained looking for photographs and other personal items that could not be replaced,” she said. “They were looking and hoping but everything was soaked and dirty and smelled so bad. It was so sad to see people that had almost nothing left.”

There was a story to be told in every house Bell visited and every person she met had a story to tell.

“One lady said the water was so high around her house that she and her mother had to be rescued by boat. Another lady was looking for her elderly mother’s sewing basket. Her mother wanted to go home but there was no home to go back to. She had to be put in a nursing home.”

One man’s story was of how a community overcomes such devastation and picks itself back up with hope and promise, Bell said.

“He said he had always thought that only poor people used laundromats but, when he and so many others were having to go to the laundromat, they found love and support there. The laundromat is now a place that is bringing people together, a place of unity.”

Every flood victim who received items donated to the Christian Love Center expressed heartfelt appreciation.

“And the Christian Love Center thanks all of those who made donations to the flood victims,” Bell said. “But the need is still great. Many of the flood victims are pleading for help. They are still in desperate need of help. Being there and seeing how your life can be torn apart, humbled me and made me more grateful. It changed my life. I won’t take things for granted anymore. I know that everything could change for me like it changed for the victims of the Louisiana flood.”