Generosity Fuels our Hurricane Recovery

August 29, 2022 / One Year after Hurricane Ida

by:  Jennifer Armand, Executive Director, Bayou Community Foundation

Hurricane Ida was a storm of traumatic destruction for our bayou community, but that is just the beginning of the story.

Here in Lafourche, Terrebonne and Grand Isle, Hurricane Ida is also a powerful story of unmatched generosity, compassion and resiliency, which continue to fuel our recovery one year later.  It is this story that makes me so unbelievably proud to call our precious coastal community home. It all began on August 29, 2021.

Tied with Hurricane Laura in 2020 as the strongest hurricane to hit Louisiana, Ida came ashore at Port Fourchon in southern Lafourche Parish at noon with crushing sustained winds of 150 mph. The historic storm collapsed homes and buildings, tore roofs and overturned boats and vehicles as she slowly cut her way through Grand Isle, Lafourche and Terrebonne, maintaining Category 4 strength for nine brutal hours.

As the sun rose on Monday, August 30, tens of thousands of our region’s 200,000 residents were homeless, water and power supplies were cut, and mangled debris was all that remained of many families’ homes and businesses. The pain and loss were tremendous. Recovery would be long, and it would be hard.

In the immediate aftermath, New Orleans garnered national attention, but the depth of destruction here was far worse. Ida was our storm, and our people were hurting. Bayou Community Foundation would share this message with the world.

It was the small, rural communities right here along our coast and our bayous, like Grand Isle, Golden Meadow, Larose, Montegut and Chauvin, that suffered some of the greatest losses from Ida’s direct landfall. Hundreds of local families lived in tents and cars along Bayou Lafourche, Bayou Dularge, Bayou Terrebonne and Grand Caillou for weeks on end, living day to day, battling hunger, exhaustion, heat, rain and grief. And yet, with all of this pain and suffering around us, our devastated communities quickly became cradles of generosity, compassion and resiliency that persevere through our recovery today.

The intense pain and loss over this past year has been overshadowed only by the selfless compassion of neighbor helping neighbor, and the explosive generosity of volunteers and donors here and around the country who shared their time, talent and treasure to care for the neediest among us.    The long road to rebuilding lives began the day after Ida left.

Generosity blossomed within local nonprofit organizations and their tireless volunteers who responded quickly to distribute food, water and critical supplies to hurricane survivors at churches and community centers up and down the bayous. Many volunteers with organizations like Bless Your Heart Nonprofit in Lafourche, and Hache Grant Association in Terrebonne had lost their own homes, but that didn’t stop them from working day and night to make sure that those who lost so much more had food, dry clothes and a warm shower. Despite significant damages, Live Oak Baptist Church in Montegut and Holy Family Catholic Church in Dulac set up food and supply banks inside their churches and prepared hot meals for those in need. On Grand Isle, the most impacted area of all, Our Lady of the Isle Catholic Church, Catholic Charities and Second Harvest Food Bank distributed food, supplies, hot meals and generators to residents as they returned to the island to pick up the pieces. Many more nonprofits like these would work for days, weeks and months throughout our area to feed and comfort our people.

Americans everywhere heard our plea for help, saw the unique needs of our devastated area, and responded generously with contributions to our Bayou Recovery Fund for Hurricane Ida Relief. Because of this generosity, Bayou Community Foundation has funded over $5 million in relief and recovery services provided by local nonprofits, including food, diapers and formula, clothing, emergency shelter, home repairs and rebuilds, and classroom supplies. Our work to secure funding and continue rebuilding continues today.

Generous volunteers have also come here from around the country to help our people rebuild their homes, their lives and our community. Over 400 Amish and Mennonite men and women from Pennsylvania and Ohio lived and worked in Dulac from January through June, building eight new homes for families like Paul and Lena Dion and repairing over 40 more with a grant from Bayou Community Foundation. Mennonite Disaster Service Storm Aid volunteers will return in October for another season of building, helping dozens more families come home.

At the dedication for their new home in May, Lena said with tears in her eyes, “We’ve worked so hard all our lives.  We can’t believe someone would do this for us.”  I can believe it, Lena.

We still face huge challenges. Thousands of residents still have no home to come home to, and others remain in campers as they wait patiently for help. The generosity, compassion and resiliency of our people here in Lafourche, Terrebonne and Grand Isle, however, is what makes our region so very special.  And with the help of so many generous and compassionate friends around the country, our precious coastal community will rebuild stronger than ever.

This is our Hurricane Ida recovery story, a story that will prevail for decades to come.