More help arrives in aftermath of Hurricane Laura
By: Dan Childs
The Salvation Army has 24 mobile feeding units deployed in Louisiana and seven in Texas in the wake of Hurricane Laura, which struck that Gulf Coast area late last week and left hundreds of thousands of residents without power and crippled water supply systems in many communities. Five additional feeding units are scheduled for deployment in hard-hit Lake Charles, Louisiana by Thursday.
“This is our largest relief effort since Hurricane Michael in 2018,” said Jeff Jellets, territorial disaster services director. “The hard part is that it’s in an area that is easily overlooked, especially with everything else that is going on in the world.”
Thankfully for the residents living in difficult conditions in the storm-ravaged area, however, many are taking notice of what has happened in Louisiana and Texas. Earlier this week, Omaha Steaks announced that it was forwarding some 60,000 pounds of high-quality steaks to the area and partnering with The Salvation Army to distribute the food. That supplemented the Army’s feeding effort which was already in place and included significant collaboration with the Southern Baptist Convention’s disaster feeding operation.
But additional help is coming as well. Tyson Foods has announced that it will deliver truckloads of chicken and ice to The Salvation Army to support the organization’s feeding efforts in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas. Also, Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the U.S., is donating shelf-stable products including beans, coconut water and other products which will be distributed by The Salvation Army in meal kits. The donation is part of Goya Gives, an ongoing global program that donated over 1 million pounds of food to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and has donated food personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Army is also again ramping up its collaboration with Operation BBQ Relief, with whom it has partnered in recent disaster events.
“Operation BBQ Relief and the Southern Baptists continue to be our two primary partners,” Jellets said. “Without their help, and the help from Omaha Steaks, Tyson and Goya, we could not afford to be on the front line, serving the way we are.”
The Salvation Army has served 37,690 meals in Louisiana and given spiritual and emotional care to 583 people. In Texas, 38,197 meals have been served, with spiritual and emotional care provided to 485 people. Most of the relief effort in Louisiana is located in and around Lake Charles, but Army units are also at work in Alexandria in the center of the state and Monroe in the northeast. In Texas, the Army’s work is largely in the Golden Triangle Area (Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange).
Jellets said that in the next several days, the disaster teams that have been on site since the outset of the effort will begin to be rotated out and spelled by relief teams. “We’ll stay in the range of 30-40 units over the next several days,” he said.
The help of the Army and other relief providers will certainly be needed and welcomed. Conditions are extremely difficult with heat indexes consistently well over 100 degrees and power outages expected to continue in Louisiana for three weeks or more. Water supply is a concern as well, with several municipal supply systems crippled by the storm. Cell phone service is spotty and, in many cases, non-existent. Getting from place to place is difficult, with many thoroughfares closed or blocked. A major accident on I-10 on Monday caused major delays in delivering supplies to Lake Charles. Even when roads are accessible, fuel in the region is in short supply.
All of that creates a nightmare for the residents and extremely challenging conditions for the relief workers.
“It’s hardship conditions, to be sure,” Jellets said. “That’s just what you’re in for. It’s difficult, it’s very tough out there, but our people are doing great work, and the investment we’ve made over the past few years into the equipment we have is proving to be a tremendous help.”
The Salvation Army’s disaster relief efforts are best supported through monetary donations, which may be made at www.helpsalvationarmy.org or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY. For additional information on the relief effort, see www.disaster.salvationarmyusa.org.