A month after devastating floods swept through parishes on the Northshore and around Baton Rouge, the urgency of providing help for affected Louisianans has eased. In the days after the floods, people around metro New Orleans pitched in with money, food and supplies — but now that the waters have receded (and many in the national media have moved on), the need doesn't seem as great. That's a dangerous perception.
The floods of 2016 caused an estimated $8.7 billion in damage, according to figures from Gov. John Bel Edwards' office. That amount puts the event in the top echelons of most expensive natural disasters ever to hit the U.S. Last week, Edwards made his second trip to Washington D.C. to appeal for help. Several hundred people still are in shelters and thousands are mucking out their houses. Some are staying long-term with friends or relatives, while others are in hotels and motels for the foreseeable future.
Now is not the time to ease up on aid for our neighbors.
If anyone knows the importance of sustained relief after a disaster, it's we who were here after Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods. Here's how you can continue to help our fellow Louisianans — this week and in the months to come:
After taking on 4 feet of water in the flooding, the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank is in the process of rebuilding its warehouse and is working out of a temporary home one-tenth the size of its original facility. It lacks the capacity to accept all food donations now. However, you can donate money or volunteer hours to help, or if you have food to donate, email firstname.lastname@example.org before proceeding. Those who can't go to Baton Rouge can donate locally at Second Harvest Food Bank, which has worked with other Louisiana food banks to bring goods and supplies to affected areas. For drop-off locations or direct donations, visit www.no-hunger.org.
The Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness recommends donating at a "multi-agency disaster warehouse" that has opened as a clearinghouse for goods destined for nonprofits, shelters and charities around the state. It's a joint project of the state and Louisiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD). The list of needed items includes canned or nonperishable food, cleaning supplies and tools, disposable diapers, baby food, plastic utensils, paper products and blankets. Like most disaster relief charities, the warehouse is not accepting clothing. Drop off donations (truckloads of supplies are welcome) at 9550 Dawnadele Ave. in Baton Rouge, call (225) 800-2227 or email email@example.com.
Louisiana State University (LSU) has a Student Disaster Relief Fund and an Employee Assistance Fund, as well as a fund to support LSU's disaster response to animals affected by the flooding. Volunteers are needed for the Employee Assistance Computer Lab (where people can apply for aid) and the LSU Food Pantry (located in Room 455 of the LSU Student Union).
For more volunteer and donation opportunities (updated regularly), visit www.volunteerlouisiana.gov.
The cameras may be gone, but the effects of the disaster continue. Please continue to help.