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United Sikhs providing St. John residents with hot meals, personal hygiene products, cleaning supplies

LAPLACE — Local business owner Raj Pannu is coordinating with the United Sikhs to provide St. John the Baptist Parish residents with food, water and other supplies as they recover from the destruction left behind by Hurricane Ida.

The United Sikhs is an affiliate of the United Nations and travels across the world to provide disaster response services. The group of nearly 35 volunteers from as far as Seattle, Los Angeles and New York City began providing food and water to locals Tuesday and will continue for at least the next seven days.

The United Sikhs will serve meals and provide personal hygiene supplies Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Choice International Family Outreach Worship Center, located at 516 East Airline Highway, and from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at Walmart Supercenter.

Pannu said the organization reached out to her to assess the needs and she said local residents “needed anything and everything.”

“It doesn’t matter what color you are or what you believe,” Pannu said. “Humanity is humanity and we all believe in one God.”

United Sikhs is also coordinating with parish officials to assess the greatest needs, which at this time include personal hygiene products, hot food and cleaning supplies.

“A pillar of our faith is you share your earnings with those less fortunate,” said United Sikhs volunteer Gurvinder Singh, who’s from Dallas.

Gurpreet Singh, CEO of United Sikhs, said the organization is planning to gradually increase the number of meals provided each day. About 500 meals consisting of rice and beans, cooked by Dalbir Singh, were given out Tuesday, and up to 750 meals will be provided on Thursday. Gurpreet Singh said when volunteers began setting up at Choice Worship Center Tuesday, a line of cars had already formed and the food went fast — showing them locals want and need hot food.

Gurpreet Singh said the experience has been “very humbling,” and that local residents have been “kind, desperate and grateful.”

“We wish we could do more,” he added. “But we’re blessed we’re able to help even if it’s one soul at a time.”

The ingredients were shipped from Texas and are cooked at the temple located in New Orleans. Harjeet Bawa of the Sikhs Society of the South in New Orleans said the disaster has shown her the community will need a lot of help to rebuild.

“But our people are strong,” she added.