Nearly 18 months after Hurricane Isaac devastated St. John the Baptist Parish, parish leaders recognized donors who were instrumental in the community’s recovery efforts.
Among the donors honored for efforts in assisting the St. John Long Term Recovery Group were front from left, Taryn Roger of Valero, Kristy Barney of Arcelor Mittal, Elsa Chauvin of Motiva, Lynn Melancon of Schneider International, Trista Brazan of United Way and Sara Guidry of Marathon Petroleum; and back row, from left, with Councilman at Large Div. A Lucien Gauff, Cedric Jones of Evonik, Bill Simoni of Marathon Petroleum, Barry Griffin of United Way, J.D. Smth of City Impact, with Parish President Natalie Robottom and LTRG Chairman and New Wine Christian Fellowship Pastor Neil Bernard, E.D. White of ED White & Associates, Parker Lombard of Home Depot, with Sen. Gary Smith and Kerry Jones of Entergy and with Councilman District 4 Marvin Perrilloux.
A donor appreciation luncheon, hosted by the St. John the Baptist Parish Long Term Recovery Group, was held March 20 at LaPlace’s New Wine Christian Fellowship, the same facility that opened and operated immediately after the storm as a disaster recovery center.
“When I walked into New Wine, I was greeted with beautiful smiles … I met many kind people ... people who really cared about us,” said Tina Jackson, who received help from the LTRC when her LaPlace home was destroyed by flood waters.
"… We received a lot of help from so many people … she said. "... My family is just one of many that say 'thank you' to the recovery group ... and everyone who helped St. John after Isaac."
On Aug. 29-30, 2012 Hurricane Isaac's flood waters damaged nearly 7,000 homes in St. John Parish, and thousands of residents found themselves displaced. Isaac’s surge reached 8 to 10 feet in some neighborhoods, mainly in Reserve and LaPlace. Search and rescue efforts lasted 48 hours, and more than 6,000, people were evacuated from several neighborhoods, and hundreds more were stranded by the quickly rising water and had to be rescued. However, there were no storm-related deaths.
After touring some ravaged neighborhoods, President Obama approved St. John the Baptist Parish for federal disaster relief. At the same time, the SJBP Long Term Recovering Group formed. The group, made up of nonprofit, faith-based, governmental, business and other organizations and agencies, was created to provide financial support, material and/or labor to address the needs of homeowners who were either uninsured or under insured and sustained damage from Isaac and subsequent disasters, as needed. The board led case management, volunteers and donations, construction/clean up, emotional and spiritual care, and unmet needs committees.
The LTRG played a key role in building back a parish after such a disaster, Mark Riley, GOHSEP deputy director said. “I applaud the group, … St. John Parish, my adopted parish, for its resiliency, ... and Parish President (Natalie) Robottom and Pastor (Neil) Bernard for their outstanding organizational and leadership efforts.
During the luncheon, New Wine Christian Fellowship Pastor and LTRG chairman Neil Bernard gave a presentation on the recovery work that has been done in the parish since Isaac, which amounts to more than $6 million. Through LTRG, 1,194 homeowner request cases have been completed, he said. In volunteer efforts, 4,125 volunteers gave 185,041 hours of service to helping repair homes. Since September 2012, donations of building materials, furniture and household goods totaled $254,767.70, Bernard said.
“We wanted to be good stewards to the people in need,” Bernard said. “… We could not have helped these people without the wonderful support we received. … We are so grateful to all of the donors who gave generously to help our parish recover from this disaster.”
The St. John United Way was among the many agencies recognized during the luncheon.
“United Ways have over 125 years of experience in connecting resources with the most pressing needs within communities to solve problems,” said Trista Brazan, executive director of the St. John United Way. “Therefore, we knew our responsibility was to use this experience to help unify all the organizations working in St. John toward recovery and connect them with donors and other resources to successfully see the parish through rebuilding from Isaac’s devastation.”
“In addition to helping lead the development of the SJBP LTRG and being its fiscal agent, St. John United Way also invested $295,000 towards Hurricane Isaac recovery and rebuilding,” Brazan said. “We are very proud to be involved in such a successful collaboration in St. John Parish.”
Among other donors recognized were Valero, Arcelor Mittal, Motiva, Schneider International, Marathon Petroleum, Evonik, City Impact, E.D. White & Associates, and Home Depot.
Parish President Natalie Robottom said a good working relationship with local, state and national groups and volunteers was instrumental in the parish’s recovery.
"St. John's recovery is a result of a team effort," Robottom said. "St. John received support from many non-profit, faith-based, governmental, business, and other organizations and agencies.”