Hemelt: Kind acts take root in wake of devastating tornados

Published 12:01 am Saturday, February 27, 2016

Joann Bolden has been serving hot meals for the past eight months as the owner and operator of Momma Jo’s Family Creole Cajun Kitchen in LaPlace.

Located at 2917 U.S. 51, Suite A, Bolden said there is always a lot of heart and soul in each meal she serves.

That was never more evident than Wednesday and Thursday when she offered a free hot breakfast to anyone impacted by this week’s tornados.

When we spoke Wednesday afternoon, it was obvious where Bolden’s emotions were with the simple gesture.

“From my heart, I knew I wanted to do something,” she said. “We were lucky not to have any damage and we wanted to give something back to those who needed it most.”

Bolden said she heard numerous stories of LaPlace residents who were in their homes and taken by complete surprise at how fast the devastating tornado came their way.

Busted out windows and knocked-down walls all followed the roar of what sounded like a freight train.

One patron told her she barely had time to dive into a closet as everything went pitch black.

It was a scary experience for sure, one that left Bolden with a simple message for anyone who came in to take advantage of the free food.

“I just wanted to give them a warm meal and tell them I love them,” she said.

Bolden credited her kind-hearted staff members and neighbor Sharon Joseph, who volunteered at the restaurant, for making the best of a bad situation.

Bolden’s gesture was far from unique as numerous residents and businesses offered helping hands to those who needed it most.

LaPlace Dunkin’ Donuts owner Bhavin Chauhan said his location offered free small coffees to patrons Wednesday morning because it was obvious those in the community needed the jolt of caffeine and compassion.

“We feel that just being part of the community is a big deal in this area,” Chauhan said. “We like to help out as much as possible. We were fortunate enough to not have damage outside of some water damage, which was nothing major.

“Driving through LaPlace, you can see a lot of people were affected by the tornados.”

Chauhan said the store also provided free ice cubes to whoever needed ice and came to the store with their own bucket.

Mary Claire Fisher of Fisher’s Ace Hardware in LaPlace said the store and its employees donate supplies and time all year long and this week was no different.

The hum of generators became constant in LaPlace and beyond thanks to thousands left without power. Although many people bought their generators somewhere else, Fisher said she and her staff offered help and advice to all those who needed to achieve basic power at their homes while waiting for the electricity to return. She said there was also a great need for propane help, something the store supplied at all hours.

Lynn Williams, community manager at Place Dubourg, said residents at the senior housing facility in LaPlace were naturally scared when the severe weather struck the community Tuesday.

A generator helped bring power to the facility’s common area, but residents still didn’t have electricity in their units in the days after the storm.

Thankfully, Lowe’s came through with a donation Wednesday of more than 100 flashlights, which the residents happily used in their rooms to shed some light on dark corners and add a greater sense of safety.

These stories are but a few of many that have taken place and will continue as our community fights back from this latest natural disaster.

However, we are not naïve to those with questionable motives. Just as soon as the storm struck and countless residents sprang into action to help their neighbors, others began plans to steal and loot. Despite warnings from law enforcement, it took less than 24 hours for those stories to make their way through our community. Please report those known or suspected of victimizing our community. They represent the worst in our society, and, when allowed to flourish, work to destroy the positive efforts described earlier.

Stephen Hemelt is publisher and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.