Editor’s note: this post was a collaboration between two of our contributors, Sarah Joy Hays and Kodi Wilson.
Our South Louisiana communities saw the worst natural disaster in 100 years, the Great Flood of 2016. Five months later, the current status is a sobering one. As you decorate your homes with trees, ornaments and lights, and dive head first into Christmas lists, please take a moment to think of these families and consider their needs this time of year.
Many families are finding out they will still be in temporary housing until the spring, while others are finding out they won’t even get a FEMA trailer until the first of the year so they can keep rebuilding. Yet others are finding out they may be forced to raise their homes up at great expense if they ever want to move back. Several of our friends are still living as a family in the guest room of a family member or friend; others are still stuck living in a hotel or other temporary solutions like RVs and travel trailers. FEMA and insurance won’t cover but a portion of what they will need to rebuild. Building supplies are on back order for months.
While many of us are out shopping for new things for under the tree, some are wrapping lights around a ladder and calling it their Christmas tree. While we are out shopping for new clothes and comforts, our friends are out shopping for new doorknobs, sheet rock, flooring and baseboards that used to be there.
If you are like us and one of the lucky ones who did not flood, perhaps you are searching for ways you can help in making this Christmas a merry one for a local family in need. Here are a few practical ideas and avenues to assist those still recovering from the Louisiana Flood:
1. In talking with flood victims, we hear more often than anything that practical items are most needed at this time — replacement items for what they still need but were lost in the flood. Since you may not be aware of what those practical items might be for any given family, gift cards to help finish their homes or to provide meal expense relief are a great idea — Walmart, Target, or a grocery store would be hugely helpful to assist with day-to-day expenses. Most of us know at least one family affected personally — why not bless them with a gift card?
2. For those who lost many of their belongings in the flood, our editor Fleur gave a great idea in an earlier blog post to give ornaments! This could be a great way to help families begin to enjoy their space again.
But if you don’t know any families directly affected by the Louisiana Flood, we highly suggest considering the following organizations to donate and/or volunteer with:
3. The Baton Rouge Area Food Bank is a great community resource helping those who have flooded, but the food bank ITSELF flooded. Any monetary donations or donations of non-perishable food items will go a long way to serve our community. The food bank is also in regular need of volunteers.
4. Together Baton Rouge is another fantastic local volunteer group that has done a great amount of volunteer guiding and is a source for distributing donations to families who are in recovery from the flood. Added bonus, if you purchase the Red Stick Love or 70726 necklace from local artisan Mimosa Handcrafted, a portion of the proceeds will go directly to Together Baton Rouge! Win win!
5. If you are looking to donate toys or Christmas gifts this holiday season, St. Vincent de Paul is accepting (and still in need of) unwrapped new toys for all ages!
6. Contact your child’s school (or another local school) or local church to see if they have any families in their community that might benefit from some assistance with Christmas or groceries/bills! Just today I had the opportunity to partner with a local school that had 55 students whose families are still recovering from the flood. We were able to provide a gift card to Walmart for the family plus a gift card to Toys R Us to assist with Christmas shopping!
If you have any other suggestions for helping our neighbors who are still in recovery from the floods of August, please share! There is no better time than at Christmas to help those in need, and this year in Louisiana the need is more apparent than ever. Our community showed its strength and kindness immediately after the storm, and we are eager to see the ways we continue to grow and care for each other.