In August 2016, shortly after the devastating and historic flooding that hit the Baton Rouge region, the Salvation Army’s Capt. Brett Meredith and others handed out boxes of food to a long line of cars at a mall. With thousands of homes and businesses still underwater, it quickly became apparent just how critical the assistance was for flood victims that day.
“I can’t tell you the number of people who would jump up out of their car and just put their arms around me and start crying,” says Meredith, the organization’s Greater Baton Rouge Corps Command Officer. “They were so grateful we were able to be there and provide what was needed.”
Those boxes of food ended up being a small but vital part of the Salvation Army’s massive disaster relief operation for flood victims in the region, an effort that has continued into 2017. The charity has served 200,000 meals, distributed 23,000 food boxes, handed out 28,000 cleanup kits and helped distribute 177,000 items of clothing in the area. The Salvation Army’s relief efforts have played a critical role in helping residents recover from the worst natural disaster in the U.S. since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Community Coffee Company was proud to support these efforts with a $100,000 donation to the Salvation Army.
“We have a strong relationship with Community Coffee,” Meredith says. “We believe in their commitment to the community and we appreciate the fact that they’ve supported us the way they have. We couldn’t do what we do without companies and organizations like Community Coffee.”
With 110,000 homes in the Baton Rouge region affected by the flood, private and governmental relief agencies have strained to meet the needs of the victims, many of whom did not have flood insurance. Meredith says that while government entities like the Federal Emergency Management Agency have provided assistance, it has fallen to private charities to fill any gaps.
“There’s no way there’s funding to help them all, but we’re trying to help as many as we can in a substantial way,” Meredith says.
One of the areas the Salvation Army decided to focus on was furniture and appliances — critical components for making any house habitable and items that are often not covered by government assistance. The Salvation Army teamed up with Catholic Charities to assist 2,000 families with $500 vouchers to cover the purchase of furniture and appliances. Distribution of the vouchers began in January and is expected to wrap up by May.
“We felt that furniture and appliances was a substantial way to help people, and Community Coffee helped make that happen,” Meredith says.
‘Blessed in Many Ways’
The Salvation Army’s assistance is a critical hand up for the thousands of victims who lost nearly everything in the floodwaters. Among them is Fran Floyd, whose home in North Baton Rouge took on 18 inches of water.
Floyd says she evacuated to a hotel and returned to assess the damage to her home as soon as it was safe. She found her walls, cabinets, bedding and many other belongings severely damaged by the floodwaters.
“Everything was pretty much destroyed,” she says. “When we went in to check it had already started to mold and mildew. The more you cleaned out, the more stuff you found destroyed.”
A manager at the Salvation Army’s retail store on Airline Highway, Floyd found herself in need of the relief services she normally sees her employer provide to others. The charity helped her secure a hard-to-find dehumidifier and mold-killing agent, as well as cleaning supplies, clothing and monetary assistance.
Today Floyd is grateful for the charity’s assistance during one of the most trying times of her life. “Mentally and physically they helped me,” she says. “I’m blessed in many ways. I just want to thank my Salvation Army family for being there for me.”