‘We’re going to be there for the long haul’: United Sikhs expand disaster relief efforts in LaPlace

Published 10:54 am Saturday, September 11, 2021

LAPLACE — The United Sikhs, an international disaster response group affiliated with the United Nations, is continuing to expand Hurricane Ida relief efforts in St. John the Baptist Parish.

Each day from 11 a.m. until supplies run out, a team of 35 United Sikhs volunteers from Seattle, Los Angeles and New York are distributing hot meals, water, hygiene products and cleaning supplies at the Choice International Family Outreach Center, 516 E. Airline Highway in LaPlace.

Gurpreet Singh, CEO of United Sikhs, said the group coordinated with local business owner Raj Pannu to provide essential supplies to survivors of Hurricane Ida who watched their world fall apart in the blink of an eye nearly two weeks ago.

Approximately 1,000 hot meals are served daily, and the line of cars waiting to receive meals stretched half a mile outside the church on Friday. The community’s need is great, and Singh said the United Sikhs are dedicated to serving St. John the Baptist Parish however possible.

“We are international, and we felt there was a real need here. We have established an office in LaPlace, and we’re going to be there for the long haul,” Singh said. “We’re there to help the community for a month, maybe longer, until the electricity comes back.”

The United Sikhs have been in contact with FEMA representatives and St. John Parish President Jaclyn Hotard, who urged the volunteers to distribute cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items.

Volunteers recently formed a partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans. This will allow the United Sikhs to begin distributing additional food supplies and fresh produce to locals.

Hot meals will continue to be served daily. The meals are cooked at a temple in New Orleans and transported to St. John the Baptist Parish.

The United Sikhs believe in coming together for the good of humanity and helping the less fortunate, no matter a person’s faith.

“It doesn’t matter what color you are or what you believe,” Raj Pannu told a L’OBSERVATEUR reporter during a distribution earlier this week. “Humanity is humanity, and we all believe in one God.”