Opelousas Schools Join Hurricane Ida Relief Effort in Parishes in La Bayou.
Three schools in the Opelousas area recently loaded school buses with an assortment of Hurricane Ida relief supplies and with the help of students and adult volunteers, traveled separately to affected parishes and helped with cleaning.
Officials associated with each school recounted the efforts of their students, who helped collect relief supplies which were donated and then transported to areas near Houma, Thibodaux and neighboring parishes.
JS Clark Leadership Academy
School principal and principal Tiffanie Lewis said 33 students from the Opelousas charter school visited LaPlace in St. John the Baptist parish on September 18 and delivered what she describes as boxes hope in addition to several hours of manual labor for the residents.
Most of the participants, Lewis said, were members of the school’s boys and girls basketball teams. Teams are required to participate in 15 hours of community service each year.
“In addition to the amount of supplies, such as cleaning supplies and toiletries, that we brought with us, our students also took a personal approach and wrote letters to students in hurricane areas. The sealed letters were addressed to young children through to school-aged children, ”Lewis said.
Lewis said the letters, which differed in content, were personal reflections of JSCLA students.
“Basically they were thoughtful and letters of encouragement. I think what our students have learned from this activity is that what happens in life doesn’t always have to do with how a situation affects you. I thought that was the idea expressed in the letters, ”Lewis said.
Lewis said the trip was aimed at helping those who were unable to work from home because of their job.
“At that time, we wanted to specifically help the employees of the parish and the municipality, who had to be away from their homes after the storm. The workers didn’t have time to deal with their own issues on their property, ”added Lewis.
What the JSLCA students did was provide practical assistance in the homes where the workers lived, Lewis said.
“We had a list of five families who needed help, so our kids got to work with hammers and sledgehammers, knocking down walls and cleaning things up. Homeowners told us they got contractors estimates of $ 5,000 or more to do the work our kids did in just a few hours, ”Lewis said.
Lewis said the trip produced some moving moments as well.
“The people in the houses we visited were in tears, they were so happy. We took out all the ruined stuff and put it on the street. It was amazing to see the piles of items in front of all the houses, ”Lewis recalls.
Lewis said she and the students had also met people everywhere looking for a hot meal.
“It was really heartbreaking to see people coming up to us and literally crying for something to eat,” Lewis said.
Westminster Christian Academy
Westminster targeted Houma Christian for help on September 25, according to high school principal Anne Silburn.
“We got on a school bus and other vehicles with about 40 children and 20 adults and got off to help (Houma Christian) which caused significant damage to the classroom, all areas of the school and at sports facilities, ”said Silburn.
“Our vehicles were full of items like cleaning supplies and non-perishable food, but our kids and parents also got ready to work and help clean the school. We also brought in $ 1,500 in cash donations that we collected, ”said Silburn.
Silburn said the WCA contingent arrived at a school heavily damaged by Ida.
“Some of the brick walls in the classrooms had collapsed and there was damage in all the seventh and twelfth grade areas. Our kids and parents went to work, cleaning up the campus, picking up tree branches and shingles and parts of buildings and roofs, ”said Silburn.
Around the sports area, Silburn said the WCA picked up debris which had blown indiscriminately and damaged concession stands and parts of the facility.
John Braham, director of Faith Formation and Campus Ministry at OCS, said seniors and freshmen at the school helped St. day last month bringing relief supplies and helping with distribution.
“The supplies were donated by the Catholic families of Opelousas. We brought cleaning supplies and other supplies from a list. We loaded them onto a bus and on top of that, Father (Neil) Pettit, pastor of St. Landry Catholic Church, drove a separate food truck donated by Barrett and Natalie Olivier, ”said Braham.
Pettit, also chancellor of the OCS, said Saint Bernadette, who like the OCS, is attached to a Catholic church.
The visual impact of the devastation in the area was also hard to absorb, Pettit recalls.
“All the roofs in the area were damaged. The area had no running water for 10 days and for 12 days no electricity. The school, church hall and rectory were damaged, with lots of branches and trees in the area, ”said Pettit.
In addition to the supplies, the OCS effort included $ 3,500 in cash donations and $ 50 in gift cards for each of the teachers in the school, Pettit said.
Pettit said the participation of the students was to help unload a seemingly endless amount of relief supplies from donation vehicles and place the supplies in the hands of those in need.
“Cars and vehicles were lined up and students brought supplies to those waiting in the long lines. It looked like there was a football field full of supplies. The (OCS) was preparing these items for distribution in addition to filling coolers with ice and helping to pour gas into cans, ”Pettit said.