By Rick Burnette
Kenny Phillips’ fourth trip to hurricane-battered Lake Charles was in early March.
Phillips, who serves as CBF Florida’s Disaster Response Coordinator, visited Lake Charles for the first time soon after Hurricane Laura struck the coast of southwest Louisiana on August 27, 2020.
Transferring a CBF Florida equipment trailer and helping to plan long-term recovery efforts on behalf of the CBF and National Baptist Convention of America disaster response partnership, he encountered the expected tangle of debris and damaged property. Apart from a few groups offering food, water and other material relief, little recovery work had been initiated.
Kenny returned to Lake Charles in October to help the CBF/NBCA Local Response Contractor, LaConya Ceasar, prepare to host future recovery teams. By then, Hurricane Delta had made landfall only 15 miles from where Hurricane Laura came ashore, impacting the same areas and compounding previous damage. Again, little recovery work was obvious in the neighborhoods that remained largely deserted due to the collective damage of two storms.
Returning in early December, Kenny installed the CBF shower trailer at the United Methodist Church in Merryville, Louisiana, on the outskirts of Lake Charles. Once again, little recovery progress was observed.
Not much had changed by Kenny’s fourth trip. Despite obvious complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a severe February ice storm, he had expected to see the presence of various large disaster response agencies. Instead, he found Lake Charles residents doing the best they can with little outside assistance.
Despite tremendous local needs, Greater St. Mary’s Missionary Baptist Church, pastored by Dr. Samuel Tolbert – also President of the National Baptist Convention of America – has been engaged in feeding programs as well as offering material assistance. Additionally, congregants continue to volunteer in impacted neighborhoods.
The church also operates the D.H. Dunn Relief Center that provides necessities such as food, cleaning supplies and clothing. However, donations have been declining.
Fortunately, with coronavirus vaccines increasingly available, CBF churches are now beginning to engage.
A team of vaccinated volunteers from Calvary Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky is preparing to travel to Lake Charles in April with LaConya Ceasar putting things into place for their upcoming involvement.
With vaccinations continuing to be administered and COVID-19 risks expected to be minimized, we are urging more CBF teams to engage among underserved communities in and around Lake Charles.
LaConya and her National Baptist colleagues are more than ready for additional CBF teams to sign up over the coming weeks and months. In addition to the Merryville UMC site, volunteer housing is available at the W.O. Boston High School facilities in Lake Charles.
For additional information about opportunities to serve in recovery efforts and to learn more about housing options, LaConya can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Teams ready to engage can follow this link to register.
LaConya and colleagues are also requesting CBF Cleanup Bucket Kits. Designed for the cleanup of storm-damaged properties, these kits are comprised of five-gallon buckets filled with specific cleaning supplies. The cost of assembling one kit is approximately $100. Churches, CBF state/regional organizations, and other groups are invited to assemble kits and arrange for their delivery to locations stipulated by LaConya and team.
For more information, a Cleanup Bucket Kit guide (PDF) can be downloaded from this page.
In addition to volunteering and/or providing CBF Cleanup Bucket Kits, CBF congregations are invited to give towards the ongoing recovery efforts in southwest Louisiana and pray for specific prayer requests as found here.
We give thanks for the increased availability of vaccines that will help reignite CBF disaster response efforts. We are also thankful for our National Baptist partners.
It is time to honor the people of Lake Charles with our service.