Deacon Bob Bridwell, from St. Stephen the First Martyr Church in Sanford, is assisting flood victims in Louisiana as a volunteer. Here he shares his experiences.
Baton Rouge This morning we met with another new crop of case workers that were hired last Friday. Catholic Charities of Baton Rouge is working very hard to spin up an organization that can handle the size and severity of this disaster. The morning meetings are typically presided by operations manager CJ Roy who is very experienced in disaster recovery. At each meeting, CJ kindly calls on me to offer an opening prayer.
French Settlement Today my team was given a new assignment, French Settlement. This community is much different than the urban areas we’ve previously worked in Baton Rouge. French Settlement is a rural community about thirty miles northeast of Baton Rouge located on the St. Amant River. The devastation is palpable and ubiquitous. We rode for several miles along LA Hwy 16 and saw debris mounds at almost every house. The area is known for its fish house style restaurants and Cajun eateries typically right on the river or the canals.
At the FEMA disaster center housed in a large white tent located at St. Joseph Catholic Church we met a lady applying for assistance. She and her husband had spent the previous 16 months restoring one of those restaurants next to the river. They lived with their 3 kids in a house next door. Everything they owned was invested in that business. They lost everything.
Some of the most difficult issues concern homes that had been flooded on previous events and received FEMA assistance; but for whatever reason flood mitigation, usually elevating the home above flood stage, never took place. The owners of these properties are not eligible for assistance, again. This rule is largely predicated on not spending good money after bad. I met such a homeowner today. This lady understood she wasn’t getting any assistance and she understood why. But she was devastated, none the less. We prayed together. She offered thanks for what she did have—a loving family, supportive friends, and her faith in God. I don’t know if what I said was comforting. My heart ached for her but I also knew that somehow she’d be okay. She hugged me warmly before she left and asked me to keep her in my prayers. And I will.