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Coast to the rescue

Local organization, business support Louisiana in Hurricane Ida's wake

Having escaped the worst of Hurricane Ida’s wrath, the Mississippi Gulf Coast has stepped up to help its hard-hit neighbor to the west. 

The powerful Category 4 storm slammed into south Louisiana on Aug. 29 with winds exceeding 150 mph, knocking out power to over a million people and causing widespread devastation. After completing the restoration to Mississippi Power customers within 48 hours of Ida’s impact, says Kaila Moran Griffith, public relations communications specialist, the company immediately focused on coordinating relief efforts with its employees to support Louisiana. 

“A large truck loaded with countless vital supplies and 1,400 cases of water was sent to Louisiana to assist with recovery efforts,” Griffith says. “Employee volunteers also partnered with Comeback Coolers to provide hundreds of coolers filled with supplies for those most impacted by Hurricane Ida.” 

Comeback Coolers, a disaster relief organization established in 2016, also mobilized quickly in the hurricane’s aftermath. Although she has led Comeback Coolers’ efforts after many catastrophic weather events, founder Heather Eason calls Ida “one of the worst storms I’ve ever worked.” 

“(The impacted area) was so riddled with debris that we started noticing things that were intact instead of things that were destroyed,” she says. “People were sleeping in parking lots, lines for gas were more than a mile long, and power isn’t expected for a month.” 

On Saturday, Sept. 4, Eason says the organization delivered about 1,400 coolers, 200 kids’ coolers, and 100 linemen buckets to Houma, Louisiana, and surrounding areas like LaFite and LaPlace.

The coolers were packed with beer, sports drinks, soda, no-sugar drinks, water, oranges, wet wipes, ice and a special note of support. Linemen buckets included socks, foot powder, cooling towels, beef jerky, Chapstick, snacks and other items, according to Eason, while kids’ coolers were filled with balls, cards, Play-Doh, flashlights, stuffed animals and toys. 

“There was a lot of coordination with an effort this size across states,” Eason says, noting that Florida, Alabama and Texas joined Mississippi in supplying coolers. “There are logistics, supply procurement, organization in setting up packing parties, packing coolers, renting vehicles, ordering shirts and lunches, mobilizing volunteers, creating delivery teams, locating delivery areas, answering questions from the public and a whole lot of little things.” 

To contribute to Comeback Coolers’ efforts, Eason says people can fill out a volunteer form, decorate a cooler or donate through PayPal or Facebook: facebook. com/comebackcoolers 

“We hope to let people know we care,” Eason says. “I think we do a very good job of it. The phone calls and messages we get from recipients are testimony to it. We want people to know they are seen and thought of.” 

The same motivation prompted the Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort to donate $20,000 to the United Cajun Navy. The organization, which started as a band of volunteer boat owners helping with water rescues after Hurricane Katrina, is now a familiar presence lending aid after natural disasters. 

“We feel that supporting this effort through our Scarlet Pearl Cares initiative is a great way to directly help the lives of those most affected by this storm,” says Scarlet Pearl CEO LuAnn Pappas. “The United Cajun Navy is renowned for quickly and thoroughly reacting to help those who are in need after storms such as this. We encourage other businesses to contribute to the United Cajun Navy mission.” Those wishing to give to the cause can volunteer their time, donate funds or send supplies. Learn more at www.thecajunnavy.org. 

According to Brian Trascher, United Cajun Navy vice president and national spokesman, the organization has been overwhelmed with support from across the country. 

“In our neighboring state of Mississippi, the Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort reached out to the United Cajun Navy right away offering assistance.” Trascher says. “With proactive partnerships and generous contributions from top-notch corporate citizens like Scarlet Pearl, the United Cajun Navy will be able to keep serving those in need throughout our community and beyond.” 

Hurricane Ida also spurred several other local nonprofits into action. The Gulf Coast Community Foundation, United Way of South Mississippi and Goodwill Industries planned to pool resources to deliver donated items to south Louisiana. Additional details were still being finalized at press time, but Paul Guichet, chief operating officer and executive director of GCCF, expected the delivery to happen toward the end of September. 

The need is poised to last for many months to come, and the Coast is committed to helping over the long haul. 

“Our customers and our company have gone through this before, so we know how important it is for your neighbors to rally around you while you recover,” Griffith says. “We’ll continue to actively support our friends in south Louisiana as they power through and come back stronger than ever.” 

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