April 16, 2016 – Christine Bordelon
Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans (CCANO) is not just there in times of immediate need but remains a valuable, long-term companion helping individuals and families get back on their feet following natural disasters.
CCANO’s response to the flooding in St. Tammany and Washington parishes a month ago is an example of how it fulfills its mission. Within a day – March 12 – after rivers rose to unprecedented heights in Covington, Bogalusa and elsewhere, Catholic Charities had boots on the ground.
Marianite Sister Marjorie Hebert, CEO, and Catholic Charities’ staff talked one-on-one with residents assessing what was needed and collaborating with long-time community allies such as the Red Cross and parish emergency operation centers, where local, state and federal government representatives plan disaster response.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond also was visible in St. Tammany and Washington parishes, talking to residents and government and business leaders, surveying damage at St. Joseph Abbey and celebrating Mass March 12 at Annunciation Church.
“That was the initial process – determining what was going on with our Catholic churches, the civil parish and what part (CCANO) could play in the immediate emergency needs of housing, food and clothing,” said Craig Marinello, director of Catholic Charities Northshore Pastoral Center. Marinello said the water rose so fast that many were taken by surprise, waking up March 11 with water in their homes. That first day, Catholic Charities worked with 43 people at the Covington High School shelter.
Food, hygiene supplies given
CCANO quickly established sites at St. Peter Catholic Church, the Covington Red Cross Shelter in Western St. Tammany, Annunciation Catholic Church in Bogalusa and Bogalusa city government offices in Washington Parish to distribute food, cleaning and hygiene supplies and to offer crisis counseling and case management.
More than 900 ready-made meals came from Second Harvest Food Bank and from CCANO’s Food for Families/Food for Seniors program. Marinello, a member of St. Peter Parish in Covington, said the parish’s Knights of Columbus cooked meals while other parishioners were knee-deep in neighborhood cleanup efforts.
In Washington Parish, Marinello said the city of Bogalusa’s immediate concern was the elderly, since hundreds depend on the flooded Council on Aging for transportation and food. CCANO and Second Harvest quickly provided a palette of senior food boxes, trucked in supplies and worked with the local YMCA and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Services.
“We collaborate with everybody,” Marinello said. “Now, more than ever in this world, there is more need but less resources. We pull together to help fill the gap. We’re able to multiply the effect that Catholic Charities has because of the relationships we’ve established and nurtured.”
Working with multiple agencies, CCANO learned that employees at Our Lady of the Angels Hospital in Bogalusa had flooded homes and stepped in to provide case management and necessary assistance so hospital staff could continue performing their jobs.
Later, they also found a woman living in a flooded home struggling to breathe because it had already been infested with mold, and a family of five – a single mom with four children – living in a van due to their trailer flooding in Franklinton. CCANO provided shelter for both. They paid for a temporary hotel for the woman and an apartment for the family to get them stabilized.
“We were helping people really in need with nowhere to go with hotels, bus tickets, immediate food and cleaning supplies,” said Stephanie Dupepe, CCANO Northshore associate director. “We got them deodorant, simple things like that, that were destroyed in their homes.”
A week after the flooding, CCANO coordinated a cleanup day on March 19 in which 13 volunteers worked with CCANO’s Northshore staff to clean the Bogalusa Senior Center.
As of April 8, CCANO said 96 individuals were enrolled in disaster case management, 41 were signed up for Disaster Food Assistance (D-SNAP), 394 individuals had been provided information and referrals on how to rebuild their homes and 53 individuals continued to have crisis counseling, among the other services.
Now, a month after the disaster, Catholic Charities is looking at the long-term recovery of St. Tammany and Washington parishes. “We’re mainly now doing case management,” Marinello said, adding that CCANO is advocating for individuals dealing with loss as they navigate FEMA. CCANO will provide financial counseling and basic education on using their monetary assistance to move forward.
“Long-term partnerships are essential to getting people back on their feet,” Marinello said. “We want to make sure that whatever the developed case plan is for a client, it goes to fruition. Getting money from FEMA, rebuilding, advocating for clients – that’s what we do.”
The Northshore Pastoral Center of Catholic Charities is accepting furniture, kitchen appliances, pots, pans, dishes, silverware, utensils, bedding and the like.
“If you think about it, when you have to cut out four feet of sheetrock, everything ground level to there is gone,” Marinello said. “Going forward, as people are getting everything back together, it’s the simple stuff that’s needed.”
As one of the largest health and human services agencies in the Gulf South, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans will continue to lend a hand, an open heart and listening ear to the most vulnerable, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity or economic status.
Catholic Charities’ Northshore Pastoral Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 69090 East Hwy. 190 Service Road in Covington. Call (985) 605-5847. For updates or to make a donation, visit ccano.org.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at [email protected].
You can also view the article on Clarion Herald’s website.