Long-term recovery efforts underway in LaPlace

Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, February 1, 2022

LAPLACE — Denny and Judy Stole of Michigan have spent their retirement responding to major disasters around the country, from the flooding of the Mississippi and Red rivers in Iowa to a major forest fire in Oregon.

Through February 11, the Stoles and other representatives of World Renew Disaster Response Services are stationed at New Wine Christian Fellowship in LaPlace. The volunteer-based nonprofit organization is a compiling a database of Hurricane Ida survivors to assist the Long-Term Recovery Group with meeting their recovery needs in the months to come.

“We invite all of the local people to come in and share their story with us,” Judy Stole said. “We put that information in a database so the local organization will know who needs what kind of help. Then they can work towards applying for grants and extra money to help the people.”

World Renew assisted the Long-Term Recovery Group in LaPlace during the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac. The nonprofit has also visited Hammond, Denham Springs and surrounding areas over the years.

After information is gathered, at the request of the local organization, World Renew sends in rebuilding teams to reconstruct houses, roofs, sheetrock and more. Among the volunteers are plumbers and electricians who can perform specialty jobs at no cost to hurricane victims.

“FEMA is usually here at the beginning, and they do a good job of organizing things. Then it is time for us to come in and get the people who have not been helped. Our goal is to help the people who did not get helped by FEMA or didn’t get enough from FEMA,” Stole said. “We can assist with anything, even complete houses. In Texas, we built a house in six weeks with the Minute Knights organization. It went from a slab to being ready for occupancy six weeks later.”

Individuals should have their FEMA number on hand during their assessment with World Renew, as this helps volunteers determine what resources have been provided. World Renew also collects birth dates for the database to ensure older, more vulnerable individuals are prioritized for assistance.

“We’ve been doing this for close to 20 years,” Stole said. “It’s good for us to do something constructive in retirement. You get out and see different parts of the country, and you meet different people. You help people who are in need. We enjoy doing it.”

World Renew will be stationed in the New Wine Christian Fellowship Multi-Purpose room from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday, February 11. For additional questions, please call 985-703-8411.

Also present at New Wine Christian Fellowship early this week were members of Louisiana Spirit Crisis Counseling, a service that helps individuals cope with disasters and traumatic events. Operated through the state and funded by FEMA, the program is currently offering free, community-based outreach and psycho-educational services in the River and Bayou parishes.

Program manager Renee Ring said Louisiana Spirit is engaged in boots on the ground community outreach and resource linkage along a seven-parish region. Since early December, the organization has gone door-to-door to assist survivors of Hurricane Ida in St. John Parish.

Along the way, they have heard heartbreaking stories of what residents have endured.

Some residents have fallen victim to alcohol and substance abuse in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, according to Edith Farlough and Tyiece Howard of Louisiana Spirit. Many others are struggling to obtain temporary trailers. With nowhere else to turn, some families are sleeping in their vehicles, using tarps and blankets to block out windows.

“We hear stories and bring them back to the table of the Long-Term Recovery Group,” Howard said.

She added, “We meet survivors wherever they are, whether that’s at the library, a trailer or someone’s house.”

Louisiana Spirit also assisted in community giveaways during the holiday season, as well as food distributions at New Wine Christian Fellowship.

Many area shelters remain closed with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and Ring said the recent closure of Disaster Recovery Centers in the River Parishes has made it more difficult for local people to access the help they need.

Individuals in crisis who need immediate mental health assistance can speak to a licensed counselor by calling the Louisiana Spirit Crisis Assist Link Line at 1-877-500-9997.

Disaster recovery is close to the hearts of many of the Louisiana Spirit team members, including Pennie Kendrick, who lost everything during Hurricane Ida.

“I still want to help the people because I feel their pain,” she said.