December 22, 2021
New year, new hope
MDS volunteers answer urgent needs in Lake Charles, Louisiana
Blue tarp after blue tarp. That’s the view for weary residents in the city of Lake Charles, Louisiana, after they’ve been through disaster on top of disaster.
Hurricane Laura made landfall on Aug. 27, 2020 just south of Lake Charles, as a Category 4 storm with 150-mile-per-hour winds.
A month later Hurricane Delta hit the coast, not even 20 miles from where Laura made landfall. Then, in June 2021, 17 inches of rain compounded the misery.
Amid it all, COVID-19 cases rose so sharply in the area that volunteers from Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) and other organizations were unable to come help.
People in Lake Charles—which lies along Interstate 10, connecting Houston and New Orleans—felt forgotten as they faced a long slog through flood recovery.
But with COVID safety protocols in place, MDS volunteers are planning to change this grim scenario one home at a time.
“We are just getting started with an initial response to the needs in Lake Charles,” explained Phil Helmuth, who has been coordinating volunteers for MDS.
“We are more than one year past the hurricanes of 2020, and still nearly every city block throughout Lake Charles has a significant number of homes with blue tarps on roofs.”
And nearly all of those homes with blue tarps have interior damage from flooding or leaky roofs.
“Far too many homes have not even been mucked out as a starting point to begin repairs,” said Helmuth. “COVID-19 really shut down the volunteer response efforts throughout Lake Charles.”
But the new year will bring new hope. “Our primary focus for January through March of 2022 is to do home repairs,” said Helmuth. “We anticipate eventually doing new buildings, but the urgent need is repairs.”
“Pray for safety and health for our volunteers. COVID continues to be a threat to our volunteer response. But also pray that our volunteers may remain safe as we attempt to move homeowners to a much better environment by repairing their homes.”
— Phil Helmuth, Coordinating Volunteers for this Project
MDS is partnering with the Louisiana United Methodist Conference, which has secured funding to repair hundreds of homes throughout Lake Charles.
“The United Methodist Church is also providing the case management to vet the homeowners to make sure they fit the criteria for us to do the repairs,” said Helmuth.
The Fuller Center for Disaster Response is vetting each of the homes, determining the scope of work needed for each home and establishing a budget for the repairs.
MDS, through Disaster Aid Ohio, is providing the volunteer and construction leadership to do the repairs for each home. Disaster Aid Ohio is planning to provide volunteers from January through March 2022 with hopes to return in the fall of 2022.
How can you help?
MDS needs volunteers, said Helmuth—and prayers, too.
“Pray for safety and health for our volunteers,” he said. “COVID continues to be a threat to our volunteer response. But also pray that our volunteers may remain safe as we attempt to move homeowners to a much better environment by repairing their homes.”