DEVASTATING FLOODING IN LOUISIANA: HOW THE DESTRUCTION OF THE BATON ROUGE YMCA IS DETRIMENTAL FOR THE COMMUNITY

Houses underwater, roads washed away, people trying to salvage their belongings and victims visibly distraught are just some of the unsettling images to come out of Louisiana in the past few days.
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Photo Credit: Shawn Hima
 
The worst natural disaster to hit this country since Superstorm Sandy has taken place in the Pelican State and Baton Rouge and its surrounding parishes urgently need immediate assistance.
 
Nearly 30 inches of rain plummeted in certain areas, killing 13 people, and destroying an estimated 60,000 homes, but that number is expected to rise as soon as FEMA delivers its official numbers. 
 
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Photo Credit: Shawn Hima

Thousands have been forced from their homes and are living in shelters. They have nowhere to go and have lost everything. To add on to their difficulties, the C.B. Pennington Jr. YMCA, which has 7,500 members that depend on them, can’t offer their services like after school programs and senior citizen assistance because their building was significantly damaged in the storm.  

 
“People come as often as three days a week and rely on us for after school camp and year round sports–they learn to swim at the YMCA,” Bob Jacobs, President and CEO of the YMCA of the Capital area Baton Rouge, told The Voluntourist.  
 
“Those services won’t happen regardless if they can pay for them because we have $1.5 million to $2 million dollars in damage and insurance may coverage $200,000 to $300,000,” Jacobs added. 
Because they are located miles outside of the flood zone, they didn’t think they’d need flood insurance. So their policy will only cover some of the damage and they’re not alone. The BRAC (The Baton Rouge Area Chamber) report states that only 21.7 percent of people in the affected parishes have flood insurance because this type of flooding has never happened before. The record two-day rainfall in those areas had a 0.1 percent chance of occurring in any year, the equivalent of a “1,000-year rain”, according to the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center. So most didn’t think the additional high cost of flood insurance was necessary.
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Photo Credit: Shawn Hima
 
Another problem residents are facing is the lack of childcare.
 
“Schools have been postponed and some school systems won’t start for three months [because of the situation]. These are kids that would have come to after school programs at the YMCA and now their parent’s life has been turned up side down. They need to go back to work, but they have no place to put their children unless they have family or find a whole other option,” Jacobs said.  
 
Two locations are offering a “holiday camp” to help people out with child care needs. 
 
Paula G. Manship YMCA, 8100 YMCA Plaza Drive and A. C. Lewis YMCA, 350 South Foster Drive are open and you can check their website for more details.
 
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Photo Credit: Shawn Hima

However, the C.B. Pennington Jr. YMCA is closed, but hopes in a few weeks they can at least offer limited programs to serve the needs of the community. As of now the non-profit doesn’t have the money to rebuild and is hoping donors will financially contribute to the repairs needed to reopen.  

 
If you’d like to help out the following things can be done:
 
Supplies like socks, toothbrushes, toiletries, shoes, gently used clothing, storage bins, blankets, pillows, flashlights, batteries, diapers, nonperishable food items and gift cards can be sent to A. C. Lewis YMCA, 350 South Foster Drive, Baton Rouge, La 70806. Monetary donations to support the rebuilding of the C. B. Pennington Jr. YMCA can be made through a link on their website: www.ymcabr.org 
 
And according to CNN.com, the organizations below are also accepting donations and volunteers. 
 
The Salvation Army.You can volunteer or donate money

 

The American Red Cross in Louisiana is giving shelter to those in need as well as meals. You can text the word LAFLOODS to 90999 to make a $10 donation or to volunteer fill out this application.

 

Louisiana Strong has a GoFundMe campaign that will distribute essential items to victims and first responders. 
MAP International is distributing hygiene kits and masks to prevent the spread of airborne diseases in affected areas.
Volunteering opportunities are available at Operation Blessing International. The organization has sent out volunteers to help with the cleanup efforts and they’re also providing hot meals. Send an email to volunteer@OB.org if you’d like to help out.

 

Samaritan’s Purse is looking for people who can volunteer for at least three days to help locals remove debris. They will provide accommodations and food for volunteers. 
Volunteer Louisiana is also in need of volunteers to help with the recovery process.  Email nauck@crt.la.gov.
You can volunteer or make a donation through the United Way of Southeast Louisiana. They’re also accepting essential items at several locations. People in need of services can dial 211, which is a hotline operating 24/7.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans & Acadiana is another organization that is on the ground distributing supplies to victims. 
Convoy of Hope is providing food, water, equipment and relief supplies to southern Louisiana. Click here to donate. Please indicate you want the money donated to go towards the Louisiana August 2016 flood relief efforts.
Save the Children sent out an emergency team to Baton Rouge to establish specialized spaces within emergency shelters where children’s unique needs can be met. To support their efforts, you can donate to the Gulf Coast Floods Children’s Relief Fund.
The Rho Epsilon Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority at Louisiana State University is raising money through GoFundMe to give $500 gift cards to those directly affected by the floods. 

Heather Newgen

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