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Lafayette, LA – When Amy Speidel looks at her file of 50 homes in need of repair in the Lafayette area of Louisiana, she sees more than a list of names.

“Here, nobody is a cookie cutter,” she said, “and the repair needs are as dynamic as the people.”

Speidel is a case manager for Love Acadiana, the nonprofit arm of Our Savior’s Church. Through a partnership created several weeks after massive flooding struck Louisiana in August, Love Acadiana has entrusted Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) to complete home repairs for people with a variety of needs. Speidel said she initially learned the most about MDS through the website.

“MDS is well-known for doing quality work and, even more, for genuine caring,” she said. “You aren’t just fixing a wall. I see Peter, a volunteer, laughing with Eric, a homeowner, and they are building a relationship, and that is so special to us.”

In terms of case management – that is, determining which people need the most help – Love Acadiana has a different approach than many disaster response organizations.

Some of the people receiving help are getting only an initial boost – building materials or drywall installation – because after that they have the resources to proceed on their own, Speidel explained. Others need help further along the recovery path.

MDS Photo/ Paul hunt

“That is the heart of Love Acadiana,” she said. “I’m going to ask a person how they are before I ask how many inches of water they have in their house. My concern is: How are you?“

While she has never personally been through a disaster, Speidel finds she has become close to many families she is helping. “I find out how many years a family has been in a house,” she said. “I stop to ask about a son’s room and a daughter’s room. In one young man’s room, half of the wall was painted like a football field. I told him we’d try to have him back in his room in time for the rest of the football season.”

Partnering with MDS complements this approach, she said. “What a blessing they bring. This is what we have the funds for. This is what we have the resources for.”

Many people in Lafayette are facing more challenges than flood damage, she added. “A lot of people have medical issues. A lot of people have been out of work for a couple years. One family has a child with autism, and moving a child with autism out of a damaged home is really tough.”

Each family is evaluated as a whole, not off of sheer numbers, said Speidel. “We do help many people who are low-income, elderly, disabled or single parents.”

But there are two-parent families who aren’t able to qualify for assistance in traditional ways, she added, “and they’re going through three months of savings.” In those cases, Love Acadiana may reach out to help. “We evaluate each step, and, with MDS, we celebrate each step.”


By Susan Kim for MDS

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