Isaac recovery team celebrates success

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, November 4, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE — The St. John the Baptist Parish Long Term Recovery Group, established to address the unmet needs of homeowners post Hurricane Isaac, recently held a close out meeting to commemorate its impact on the community since its formation two years ago.

Baileigh Rebowe, who headed communication efforts as part of the LTRG executive board, addressed the St. John Parish Council at its meeting last week.

“As most of you are familiar, the St. John Long Term Recovery Group has been working diligently toward individual recovery here since Hurricane Isaac ravished the community two years ago,” Rebowe said.

The group’s goal, she said, was to to provide spiritual, emotional, physical and financial resources to those affected by the disaster, especially the elderly, uninsured and underinsured.

During the 2012 storm, search and rescue efforts lasted for 48 hours with more than 6,000 residents rescued from flooded areas and 3,900 residents housed in shelters immediately after the storm. More than 7,000 homes in St. John Parish sustained damaged from the storm.

Rebowe said group members — comprised of members from faith-based and non-profit agencies, St. John Parish government, businesses and volunteers — “met monthly, sometimes twice a month, for two years operating under various subcommittees based on the type of skills or support each provided.”

LTRG subcommittees included allocations/funding, volunteer/donation coordination, emotional/spiritual care, construction/cleanup, unmet needs, case management and


Directed by an executive board, the LTRG managed rebuilding efforts through the organization of monetary and construction donations and advocating for additional resources and funding to help those devastated by the storm.

A volunteer reception center was established after Hurricane Isaac at New Wine Development Corporation to serve as a central location for the influx of volunteers, as well as an intake center for affected residents.

Large volumes of donated resources and supplies were organized and inventoried through the multi-purpose warehouse and disbursed through volunteer groups based on the greatest need.

“Three weeks ago we held our final LTRG meeting and closed out the chapter on Isaac,” Rebowe said at the Council meeting. “As the lead of the communications sub-committee, I am proud of the impact the LTRG has made on our community, and most importantly, on the lives of the people who live here.”

Rebowe said for some residents, the LTRG offered the only hope to rebuild and return home.

“The success of the LTRG is attributed to a team effort and the hard work of many who volunteered their time and energy to seeing our community restored,” Rebowe said.

Pastor Neil Bernard of New Wine Christian Fellowship, who served as the LTRG chairman, reported to the Council that as a result of coordinated efforts through the LTRG, the parish received recovery assistance from more than 4,000 volunteers nationwide who contributed over 190,000 hours toward rebuilding efforts in St. John Parish.

He said over $486,000 and over $250,000 in donated goods were allocated toward rebuilding efforts, and the LTRG fulfilled 1,274 homeowner requests for assistance that included sheetrock, roof repair and carpentry work. In addition, 115 homes were remodeled.     

An estimated savings to the parish of $5.3 million for unskilled/skilled labor assisted in a total LTRG impact on parish recovery of $7.2 million.

Upon closing the LTRG, Bernard said all homeowner requests for assistance were completed and hundreds of families served.

“I am so grateful that after two years of serving as the chairman … we have accomplished our goal of assisting those homeowners who were either uninsured or underinsured return home,” Bernard said, adding “different people from different backgrounds with a commitment to work together” made the LTRG successful.

Mark Riley, deputy director at the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said in March the Federal Emergency Management Agency now uses St. John Parish’s model of a disaster recovery group across the country as an example of how efforts should be coordinated and that the creation of the group has built resiliency in the community should another storm ever affect the parish.

“I haven’t seen anybody do it better than you guys,” Riley told the LTRG at a spring luncheon.

Organizations involved in the LTRG were Catholic Charities, BRACES, UMCOR, LA Spirit, Rising Star Baptist Church, Celebration Church and Louisiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters. Various local businesses donated to the group, including Marathon Petroleum Company LP, Arcelor Mittal, Evonik, Valero, Nalco and Home Depot.

“St. John’s recovery is a true result of a team effort,” Parish President Natalie Robottom said. “I want to commend this group on working tirelessly toward recovery and for their dedication to making St. John bigger, better and stronger.”