I think I am still in a bit of shock from what I saw and heard down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana this past weekend.
Words, photos and videos cannot describe the devastation nor can it describe the hope and faith that the people we met have in rebuilding their homes and their lives. I am not sure if you have ever been to the Grand Canyon, but if you have been there, it is impossible to describe it to someone who has not been there.
The same thing goes for Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas.
Honestly, I was not sure what we would see when we got to Louisiana with our truck full of supplies that we were able to collect from our local community. We started out hoping to fill one truck but ended up having two trucks full of all kinds of supplies we were able to donate.
We got so much help from so many people that if I tried to list them all I would forget someone and I do not want to do that. I do however need to mention that the Stockbridge office of Keller Williams took this effort to heart and filled up an entire truck in 48 hours. When my wife Carmen and I arrived at 6:30 Saturday morning to complete loading the truck we brought I was amazed at how much they had to donate. Everyone there was so excited and eager to help and after we tried to fit everything into the truck, it was clear another truck was needed. Carmen and I headed out with our truck loaded down and Lindsey Morton, with the Stockbridge office, headed off to rent another truck and got her dad to volunteer to drive down with us.
Status Design in Dacula, was kind enough to be a drop off point and they got tons of items left at their store. Thank you! Other local Keller Williams offices dropped off supplies and many, many others offered their time and resources that were invaluable to assisting us in making this trip happen.
Street after street after street of personal belongings, trash, building materials, cars, appliances line the streets waiting to be picked up and removed. I cannot begin to guess how long this process will be but it will be months if not a year before everything is removed. There is very little construction going on as well. All the homes need to be gutted, the contents loved to the street so FEMA can come and verify it, the studs and all wood in the home needs to dry before they can start to rebuild the homes. We are now over three weeks after the flooding and there seems to be no construction going on. Because these areas really have never been flooded, no one had flood insurance and their homes are total loses. They will have to rebuild by themselves with little or no financial support.
Kelli Ballow, from the local Keller Williams Realty office, was our contact point for the drop off and she and her family made all of us feel like we were a part of the family when we arrived in town late Saturday afternoon. They welcomed us into their home, fed us and we got to hear about what the real needs in the area are. Her family allowed two entire truck loads of supplies to be stored in her shop and will go through and inventory the items and then they will be given to those in the area on a as needed basis.
On a personal level, the most impactful moments came when Carmen and I drove through some of the neighborhoods handing out the gift cards we had. Nearly everyone we met broke down in tears by the kindness that total strangers were providing to them. Their stories or hope, strength and faith were incredible. One person in particular was clutching a cross she was able to remove from her home that she found among the debris. She was carrying ALL her possessions in two boxes. She was totally lost as to what to do to begin to rebuild her life and home but her faith in herself, her God and others was remarkable.
What she and everyone else wanted us to share was that they need help and that no one is telling "their story". The media is not there to cover this and there is so much to do and what seems to be so little resources. They are in desperate need of supplies, clothes, gift cards, cash and anything else we can provide them. It is not enough to say we are "thinking of you and praying for you". We must take action.
My life was changed this weekend.