Local residents bring gumbo, love to Big Apple

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 23, 2001


NORCO – Shawn Bradley heard the call Monday morning, as he saw rescue workers munching on what must have been their 30th hamburger.

“These people need gumbo,” he thought. “Those guys can’t eat any more hamburgers.”

The owner of Bradley Electrical Service, and son of local attorney Victor Bradley, called his wife, Danielle, and told her they were going to New York City on Wednesday.

“I thought he was nuts!” she said later.

The idea was simple.

“The Gumbo Crew” is currently in “The Big Apple,” hopefully set up somewhere close to the “Ground Zero” site of the World Trade Center complex, feeding emergency workers and anyone who wants a free bowl of hot Louisiana chicken-and-shrimp gumbo. They hope to feed 1,000 people.

They also plan to donate at least $1,000 to the rally planned Sunday in Central Park on behalf of the New York Fire Department.

The family had already been heavily involved in fund-raising for New Yorkers after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Altogether, mostly through can shakes and other donations, they have helped raise more than $28,000.

“He felt he needed to do something more,” Danielle Bradley recalled. “He’s a very religious person, and this just wasn’t enough.”

Bradley has known the personal pain of the sudden loss of loved ones. Two of his brothers, Victor and Blaine, died in a traffic accident several years ago on Airline Highway.

So he recognized the pain and feels the loss sustained by those in the stricken cities. Bradley and his wife began making telephone calls.

“I figured buying everything myself but it grew and grew,” Bradley recalled.

Rice came in, pounds of it, cooked and uncooked. Meat, especially sausage, came in, along with vegetables, bread and even king cakes.

Six months ago, Bradley had bought a 30-foot fifth-wheel trailer for tailgating parties at LSU games.

“I never imagined I would use it for something like this,” he said.

He strung together his one-ton pickup, the fifth-wheel and a smaller supply trailer emblazoned with a donated sign proclaiming the group as The Gumbo Crew, including Bradley and his wife, brother Jarred, and friend Mandy Smith.

The crew left Louisiana Wednesday evening and planned to swap drivers to keep rolling on their 23-hour drive to a prearranged campsite. From there, they hope to hit Manhattan today to start feeding hot, prepared meals to the exhausted workers.

“They’re telling people not to send food,” Bradley said, “but we’re bringing prepared food.”

He added the gumbo is “cooked in our own water, or it won’t taste the same.”

The crew, including backup helpers like his sister, Erin, and Erin’s husband, Paul Chaisson, helped haul supplies, chop vegetables and arrange for the care of their two children in their absence.

Chaisson pointed out a John Wesley poem which is helping the crew stay on the course: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

The Gumbo Crew plans to return home Tuesday, having done something to make New Yorkers feel they are remembered and loved in south Louisiana.

“I know what gumbo does for me when I’m stressed,” Bradley said. ” A bowl of gumbo does me good.”