Hope Reigns returns to LaPlace in time of need

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, March 2, 2016

RESERVE — An organization that helped St. John the Baptist Parish deal with the impact of Hurricane Isaac in 2012 is back helping residents affected by the tornado that tore through LaPlace Feb. 23.

A staff of approximately 20 people with Hope Reigns, a division of the rebuilding and recovery organization Eight Days of Hope, arrived Thursday and set up shop at Regala Gym in Reserve.

Office manager Dana Pickens said Hope Reigns is the rapid response division of Eight Days of Hope.

“Usually, we try to come in within 48 to 72 hours after a disaster,” Pickens said. “Then we try to determine the immediate needs, like tarping a roof if the home has had water damage. We try to get out the wet carpet. We try to help the homeowner get their personal items out, and we try to secure the home as much as possible until it can be repaired at a later time.”

Once the immediate needs are taken care of, Pickens said Hope Reigns volunteers help pick up debris and aid with tree removal, adding volunteers also operate a chainsaw crew.

“Because we have worked in LaPlace before, we got a call that morning asking us to come,” Pickens said. “There are mixed emotions being back. There is sadness when we see homes that we worked on destroyed again, but still, it’s a blessing to be able to come back once again and help those people and give them that hope that people are still going to come and help. It’s also nice to see the changes and the rebuilding that has happened since then.”

Pickens said word spread through social media, American Family Radio and other avenues of the need for volunteers. Emails also went out to former volunteers.

The rapid response division formed last year and covered eight disasters, Pickens said, adding for the 2016, the tornado that struck LaPlace is their second disaster.

The staff, along with volunteers that come, are staying on cots in Regala Gym and using a portable shower brought onsite Friday.

Assessors have been in communities looking at houses since Friday when tarping began.

“As volunteers come in, we start sending them out,” Pickens said. “As of right now, we are committed to stay here until (Friday). It’s possible that can be extended if we have enough volunteers to do the work.”

Pickens joined Hope Reigns because she enjoys serving others and sharing God’s love. Each morning and night, she said volunteers can participate in a time of devotion and prayer.

“That time of fellowship is a good time for the volunteers to come together,” she said. “It’s always a great time to just listen to them share their experience of the day and meeting with homeowners and helping with their needs. Each one of us feels that we are blessed when we leave a job site from seeing God at work.”

No particular skill set is needed for volunteers, Pickens said, adding they must be at least 18 years old. For more information, call 256-503-1024.

After working hard helping LaPlace residents deal with the devastation their homes sustained, volunteers can look forward to meals cooked by Lavon Haden.

“I have my own ministry, it’s a feeding ministry,” Haden said. “I’m also the cook for Hope Reigns. It takes a team effort to do what we do. I’m giving food to those who need it. Hope Reigns is probably the most dedicated, spiritual group of people you will ever work with.”

Haden serves volunteers a full breakfast in the morning, hot dogs and sandwiches for lunch that can be brought on site and a full course dinner.

“Cooking for the volunteers allows them to do what they do, which is go out and help people,” Haden said. “I’m just helping them so they can do their job.”

Anyone who wants to volunteer their time to assist with debris removal for the tornado victims can register at hopereigns@eightdaysofhope.com.

All volunteers registered through Hope Reigns will be disbursed back into the affected areas for resident assistance.