Ambassador Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, the Chairman of the Board of the American Red Cross and a Civic Association Director, recently returned from the Louisiana flood disaster area and filed this report:
By Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, Special Report to the Civic Association.
I have recently returned from a trip to Louisiana where I witnessed the devastation which has engulfed Baton Rouge.
It is hard to imagine what 60,000 homes - completely flooded - look like until you see them firsthand.
But sadly, and more importantly, are the families - mothers, children, and fathers - impacted by this 500 Year flood.
Most of those impacted appear to be somewhat dazed and in shock, as all of their earthly belongings are piled outside their homes in the street, some searching for simply an important photograph or album of their children’s baby pictures or wedding celebrations.
This experience truly puts into perspective our desire and focus on acquiring “stuff” and how quickly it can all be washed away as you can see from the photographs.
While the scenes of loss and devastation were heartbreaking, I also witnessed personally the kindness of neighbor helping neighbor, and the resilience of the human spirit everywhere!
Red Crossers in Louisiana continue to work nonstop, despite some incredibly challenging conditions on the ground, providing shelter, food, comfort and care to affected individuals and families.
It was heartwarming to see the work being undertaken by more than 2,900 volunteers from all 50 states as well as individual citizens and volunteers, including the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, working in partnership with the Red Cross - husband and wife teams who prepare and distribute all the food - at last count having served over 611,000 snacks and meals.
I had the privilege of distributing meals and snacks in the affected neighborhoods - feeding people stranded or those working to clean out their homes and rebuild their lives.
The response in Louisiana has truly been an enterprise-wide effort with over 13 shelters providing over 1,500 people, not only food and a dry place to sleep, but also emotional support.
I am deeply proud and grateful for the contributions of our partners on the ground and volunteers going above and beyond to help our fellow Americans in this critical hour of need.