Hurricane Ida Recovery Expo brings reputable contractors to LaPlace

Published 12:10 am Saturday, October 23, 2021

LAPLACE — Roofers, general contractors, public adjusters, lawyers and more will be available to speak to residents and answer questions during a Hurricane Ida Recovery Expo scheduled for noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, November 7 in the LaPlace Walmart parking lot.

HBCU Adventures is coordinating this event, and an additional three expos have been scheduled from noon to 4 p.m. at the following locations around Southeast Louisiana: Boutte – November 6, 13001 Highway 90; Galliano – November 13, 16759 LA-3235; and Larose – November 14 -115 W. 10th Blvd.).

HBCU Adventures owner Alexis Thomas started holding hurricane relief expos in Panama City, Florida three years ago, after her father was scammed out of approximately $60,000 in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. To keep others from falling victim to scams, Thomas initiated a vetting process bringing honest and reliable contractors together in one location where residents could safely take steps to rebuild their lives.

HBCU Adventures carried the expo concept over to Louisiana after Hurricane Laura hit the southwest portion of the state. The event reached more than 350 residents in Lake Charles in 2020.

Thomas knew Southeast Louisiana would be in need of the same resources after Hurricane Ida, but she was still shocked to see how great the need is.

“We were only doing it in Houma, but then so many residents inboxed us to ask about other locations,” Thomas said.

A recent hurricane recovery expo in Boutte drew well over 260 residents and revealed a need to bring in more vendors. For the November expos, the goal is to have five vendors representing each area, including but not limited to tree removal service, general contractors, law firms, roofers, public adjusters and mitigation companies. Representatives from the license commissioner’s office will also be in attendance.

“I advise residents, if you are coming to talk with the law firms or public adjusters, bring your paperwork with you and ask questions. There are always multiple law firms and public adjusters in attendance. Don’t just go to one. Go to every booth if you can and ask them the same question,” Thomas said.

She added that it is important to have a variety of services available in one location. Even if a resident doesn’t hire any of the vendors in attendance, it’s a valuable experience to get questions answered and meet with contractors face-to-face.

“After a hurricane, the worst thing is to keep calling and calling and still not get an answer. This can give people at least some ease knowing they’ve talked to a person face-to-face. Bringing the residents peace is the goal,” Thomas said.

The vetting process aims to make residents feel more secure in the search for contractors. Thomas and her team take a deep dive into each company and its leadership. They check for any red flags, such as if the company changed its name in the past few years to cover up legal trouble or if the owner has been under investigation for fraud.

Only vendors with wait times of three weeks or less are invited to participate in the expo.

“If it is longer than three weeks, we don’t let them come out, because that’s not what the residents need right now,” Thomas said.

Each vendor pays a booth fee to participate in the expo, and those funds are directed back to hurricane relief efforts in the community. After Hurricane Laura, HBCU Adventures used booth fee proceeds to distribute gift cards for hurricane survivors.

This year, the team plans to bring Christmas to Southeast Louisiana communities.

“Based on how much money we get, that will determine how many toys we are going to purchase,” Thomas said. “We know it is going to be hard for a lot of parents. To know that you are able to give your child a gift, that’s everything.”

There is still time for vendors to sign up for upcoming expos in LaPlace, Boutte, Larose and Galliano. For more information, please contact hbcuadventures@gmail.com or call 334-612-7859.