Businesses, Bridge Side Marina, and more Return to Grand Isle after Ida

Left in the wake of Hurricane Ida’s path, the state of the city of Grand Isle was awfully grim, but as it is outlined in this feature article from Nola.com, nine months after the storm passed, things are starting to look up as anglers and fishermen return to the nine-mile island.

The feature article spoke directly to citizens of Grand Isle to take a reading on how the community was fairing this long after Ida, thus making the account of the island’s comeback reliable and promising to say the least. One local fisherman, Frank Dreher commented on the striking restoration efforts that have taken place in the area in the last few months.

Dreher said “the one thing everyone has to know is the island and the waters certainly do not look like what they did before the storm. Most of the debris has been removed and the demolition of some camps continues. It’s been a long road, and we got a lot of support from our friends, the fishermen we’ve seen for years. It’s exciting to be back and exciting to see our friends come back.”

After Grand Isle was hit particularly hard by the devastating winds, storm surges, and other effects of Hurricane Ida, the outlook wasn’t positive. The community was left without electricity, water, fuel, food, and all other comforts, making many business owners and camp owners begin their processes of rebuilding and reopening the island with heavy hearts. As outlined in the feature, it would be months before these workers would be aided with electricity being restored or support services coming back to the island, but the strong workers put in their best efforts to repair the island.

In October of 2021, charter fishermen like Frank Dreher worked with professional crews to clean up the island using their materials, boats, and wherewithal. These members of the Grand Isle community used their own free time to round up, procure, and supply the necessary materials to build back the island, and thankfully it paid off. When crews began the process of rebuilding the island’s stores, streets, and shores in October, they were joined by the reopening of Grand Isle’s big grocery store Sureway, which was operating on power from a generator. In the coming months, power and water followed, and hope was gradually restored.

One of the largest projects facing the islanders wanting to assist in the restoration efforts was the resurrection of the iconic Grand Isle staple: The Bridge Side Marina. Because it’s the first marina that visitors to Grand Isle see whenever they’re crossing the Caminada Bay bridge, it’s often synonymous with the city itself, thus making it the perfect restoration site for islanders Buggy and Dodie Vegas, who were interviewed by reporters from Nola.com.

Today, Bridge Side Marina is open once again, and it’s supplied with fuel, ice, live shrimp, tackles, minnows, and food. All of this means that enough is in stock to bring life back to the once-vibrant Marina, and there’s enough bait to ensure that enough life will be caught as well.

Community member Dodie Vegas was confident in Grand Isle’s comeback; he reported that the Bridge Side store’s deli is set to reopen in late May. Additionally, he told reporters, “It’s still a work in progress. We’re shooting to have bait boats providing live croakers for Memorial Day weekend. We had to rebuild docks, and we have a barge in the marina building a new dock,” he said. “And, we’ve rebuilt about half our rooms. The RV park is hooked up 100%, and we’re working around the fishermen in the morning and working on the place the rest of the day.”

Though, this Grand Isle comeback isn’t only because of the Marina’s return, because the Blue Dolphin inn and at least a half of a dozen RV parks are currently reopened and operating in the area alongside restaurants.

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Benny Cenac Supports The Bayou Community Foundation and the Completion of the First Two Homes in Dulac for Hurricane Ida Victims

The Bayou Community Foundation (BCF) and community volunteers recently celebrated the completion of the first two homes built in Dulac, Louisiana through the Foundation’s Hurricane Ida recovery programs, according to The Houma Times.

The dedication ceremony allowed for residents, state and parish leaders, and nonprofit partners to come together and celebrate the building of the first two homes to come out of the BCF’s many partnerships and recovery programs centered around Hurricane Ida. Many sponsors, donors, volunteers, and community partners collaborated to bring these two homes from being nonexistent to ribbon-cutting quality

The team at Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) built both homes in Dulac thanks to a $850,000 grant from BCF’s Bayou Recovery Fund for Hurricane Ida Relief, a $100,000 from long time BCF supporter, Benny Cenac, and other community donations.  Also contributing, was support from the Governor’s Hurricane Ida Relief and Recovery Fund.

What’s remarkable about this project is that the grant funds merely were used to purchase building materials, while the actual construction labor was provided at no cost by MDS volunteers. Outside of MDS, homeowners contributed both insurance costs and FEMA proceeds they received toward construction costs, and appliances were donated by the nonprofit, Rebuilding Together Bayou. All of this community collaboration resulted in the construction and unveiling of two homes for families, such as Abraham and Robin Parfait and their two sons, who lost their home along with all of their belongings after Hurricane Ida’s winds ripped off the roof of their family home.

Money raised for the Bayou Recovery Fund will allow MDS to ultimately construct 10 new houses and complete 40 or more major home repairs in Dulac. This will allow for 50 families to be able to return home after retreating from Hurricane Ida’s ravaging of the area.  “After Hurricane Ida made landfall here on August 29, Bayou Community Foundation recognized that our community’s recovery depended on providing homes for the neediest who lost so much. We are grateful to MDS for sending volunteers to Dulac and working with us to fill this critical housing need,” a statement from Bayou Community Foundation President, Henry Lafont, read.

Looking forward, MDS built the homes to withstand future storms that will hit the area. Ranging from two to three-bedroom homes, these houses are built for storm resilience as part of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes “Strong Homes Initiative.” This initiative provides donated services along with products to upgrade homes to be of the IBHS Fortified hurricane wind standard, meaning that these houses can withstand up to 160 MPH winds and are elevated to well above the FEMA requirements.

At the Dedication Ceremony, it was announced that multiple donations were received. According to a press release from BCF, one major donor to the BCF Bayou Recovery Fund announced a challenge grant designed to continue the funding of home rebuilding and repair work in Dulac this fall. According to The Houma Times, “the Ray & Kay Eckstein Charitable Trust Fund has committed $500,000 to support the project with the challenge that BCF raise an additional $500,000, providing at least $1 million to fund another building season with MDS beginning in October 2022.”

Benny Cenac’s support of Bayou Community Foundation

 Arlen “Benny” Cenac has been a longtime supporter of the Bayou Community Foundation and the work they do to sustain the communities of Lafourche, Terrebonne, and Grand Isle. In addition to his most recent donation of $100,000 for recovery efforts made post Hurricane Ida, he also made a sizeable donation during the height of the pandemic to assist businesses dealing with the complications of shut downs and quarantines. In addition to countless other donations and acts of support, Benny Cenac is proud to be a founding member of the Bayou Community Foundation. BCF was founded in 2012 by a group of business leaders and philanthropists who recognized a need for a community foundation to strengthen human services, education/workforce development, and coastal preservation efforts in the local area, and to assist in natural disasters and other emergencies.

If you are interested in supporting Bayou Community Foundation and the Bayou Recovery fund, please visit https://www.bayoucf.org/disaster-recovery/ to make your donation or get involved.

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Gonzalez Internet Provider Surprises Nonprofits with Ida Recovery Donations

Two nonprofit organizations were surprised with $2,500 grants by the generosity of a Gonzales internet provider, according to this news article from Houma Today.  REV Broadband and Vision Communications recently wanted to give back to local organizations that have been giving “so much over the last several months” during Hurricane Ida recovery, according to Chief Financial Officer Peter Louviere. This wanting to give back has resulted in the awarding of a $2,500 donation to the Bless Your Heart volunteer organization in Larose, Louisiana. Volunteers with Bless Your Heart have been working continuously to help residents rebuild from damages that were sustained from Hurricane Ida, which was particularly devastating to the area.

In addition to Bless Your Heart receiving a donation, REV Broadband, which is the parent company of several telecommunications businesses such as RTC, EATEL & EATEL Business, Vision Communications & VENYU, also gave a $2,500 donation to the St. John United Way, which is also located in Larose.

According to REV Broadband and Vision Communications, both companies were quite surprised by the unexpected donations. A news release from REV reported that “representatives from both organizations were invited to individual meetings to discuss the potential of filming a production about their work in the community — specifically in the form of aiding citizens affected by Hurricane Ida. In the place of a meeting, the nonprofit representatives were surprised with a donation made on behalf of REV’s executive leadership.”

Both the St. John United Way and Bless Your Heart have continued to play big roles in helping the community with Ida recovery. The Category 4 storm made landfall on August 29.   CFO Peter Louviere told HoumaToday, “we continue to hear so much about the great work these two organizations continue to do – bringing positive, lasting impact to the communities we serve and live within. It’s not only an honor to be able to present these donations to such deserving organizations but to do so on behalf of our 400 employees really makes this rewarding.”

REV Broadband reported that more than 60,000 of its customers were impacted in some way by Hurricane Ida, so for them to make an effort to donate funds right back to the on-the-ground organizations that were and still are assisting their customer base is an effort to show support to a community that was impacted by the detrimental storm. So far, Bless Your Heart reported that they’ve raised over $500,000, have helped over 1,000 people, and have donated more than 100,000 pounds of supplies since 2020, when the nonprofit organization was founded.

One of the people who helped to launch Bless Your Heart is Jeray Jarreau, an attorney in LaRose. He gave a statement relaying that he was particularly grateful for the donation. He said, “Bless Your Heart is overwhelmed and humbled that RTC-EATEL-Vision would choose to donate to our organization. RTC-EATEL-Vision’s support of our organization exemplifies its continued dedication to help[ing] Lafourche Parish recover after the devastating effects of Hurricane Ida.”

This news from REV Broadband comes at a similar time that The Bayou Community Foundation has announced that their Bayou Recovery Fund for Hurricane Ida Relief has awarded over $3.7 million to nonprofits located in Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Grand Isle. While the full list of grants can be found at this link, HoumaToday reported that the grant money was essentially broken down as follows:

  • $1.4 million for emergency services immediately following the Aug. 29 storm.
  • $1.4 million for housing programs
  • $700,000 for direct financial assistance to individuals, families, emergency responders, andcommunity recovery projects
  • $230,000 for local nonprofit organizations to repair their buildings or replace lost equipment so that they could resume operations and deliver critical programs to residents.

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Nicholls Nursing Students receive Clinical Lab Coats from United Houma Nation

Nursing students at Nicholls State University will be receiving clinical lab coats thanks to a large donation from the United Houma Nation, as per the university. The United Houma Nation (UHN) donated approximately $20,000 worth of clinical lab coats to Nicholls’ Department of Nursing in order to assist students by covering an important and often costly part of their enrollment in the program.

After Hurricane Ida passed in 2021 and massive amounts of damage and destruction were surveyed in Thibodaux Parish, the UHN had received various donations of supplies that were to be distributed to the affected community. Among these supplies were numerous boxes of nearly $20,000 of clinical lab coats, and these boxes were discovered by Cami Dardar. Dardar is both a senior student of nursing at Nicholls and a member of the UHN, so when she discovered the boxes of lab coats while organizing the donations, she jumped to action.

Dardar told Nicholls press, “I knew I had to get in contact with Dr. Raquel Engolio to get these uniforms out. I really think this is from God because the uniforms could have gone anywhere and out of all the people involved, I knew what to do with them. I would have never thought that being a nursing student and a member of the UNH would ever cross paths. It’s amazing to see two important parts of my life come together.”

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program at Nicholls admits 160 students annually with approximately 80 students admitted each semester. Each student is responsible for procuring their own clinical lab coat, which can be costly as these coats are valued at about $115. Stacked against tuition, textbooks, and other supplies, it’s certainly advantageous for nursing students to be recipients of this UHN donation.

In reflecting on the significance of a Nicholls student who may or may not have had their entire lives upended by Hurricane Ida receive this symbolic and vital part of their Nursing education, Dardar said, “to see another student who needs the uniform due to losing them in the storm or can’t afford them is just a feeling I can’t describe.” She continued, “I remember my first semester and how much of a burden it was to afford these uniforms. Now, students don’t have to worry. It is an honor to bless upcoming students with these coats.”

Head of Nicholls’ Department of Nursing and assistant professor of nursing Dr. Englio commented on the donation by saying, “this wonderful donation will assist Nicholls Nursing students by saving them both time and money. We are very grateful to have this type of support from the community and from one of our students. The timing of the donation is perfect. It is also very meaningful to future registered nurses and will help them have a positive clinical experience.

These donated clinical lab coats were primarily donated on November 5, 2021 at a dedicated donation event organized by Principal Chief August “Coco” Creppel, in which a team of UHN members delivered and handed out approximately 450 lab coats to new clinical students.

New students admitted to the Department of Nursing previously were able to attend a Nursing-exclusive job fair last semester. The job fair was organized by the university’s Career Services, and it provided current and former graduates of Nicholls’ nursing programs to meet, interview with, and connect with potential employers. Employers attending the Nursing Career Job Fair were healthcare providers from hospitals and other healthcare groups across Louisiana.

Over the past decade, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an on-average projection of about 194,500 job openings for registered nurses with the typical entry-level education required being a Bachelor’s degree. That being said, the donation of lab coats from the United Houma Nation is massively appreciated by Nicholls’ nursing students.

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Nicholls Receives Donation from Shell and the Bayou Community Foundation

The students of Nicholls State University are still seeing the effects of Hurricane Ida in their lives, but those effects aren’t being ignored by the supportive community around them. According to this news feature from the University itself, over $75,000 has been awarded to Nicholls so that affected students and their families can be supported many months after the storm has passed.  In total, both Shell and the Bayou Community Foundation have awarded Nicholls State University with a $77,760 reward to help with Hurricane Ida recovery efforts.

Colette Hirstius, Shell’s senior vice president for the Gulf of Mexico, had spoken on the long-lasting relationship between the company and the Louisiana community. She said, “The Bayou Region has been home to Shell for over 100 years and it was important to us to be able to help provide a home for Colonels and their families who lost theirs to the devastation of Hurricane Ida. We are grateful and proud to be able to provide safe, stable housing so that these students can stay in school and focus on their futures.”

Nicholls has reported that the funds will be utilized to meet the needs of students and families who have been displaced from their houses by Hurricane Ida. The funds will be used in a variety of ways, with a considerably large portion being used to provide temporary housing, address food insecurity, and give families basic living essentials like clothing, toiletries, medications, school supplies, and so much more. After the funds were awarded, processed, and tallied, it was announced that the money will cover the housing, meals, and living expenses for at least 20 students and their families, thus providing much-needed support in such unsure times.

The executive director of the Bayou Community Foundation, Jennifer Armand, said of the awarded funds, “Nicholls State University responded quickly after Hurricane Ida to provide temporary housing and meals to students, faculty and staff who lost so much during the storm. The Bayou Community Foundation is pleased to partner with Shell to support all of these important relief efforts.”

The Bayou Community Foundation, which was originally created in 2012, is the only community foundation that is specifically designed to solely serve Lafourche Parish, Terrebonne Parish, and Grand Isle, Louisiana. The Foundation was started after local leaders saw the continuing effects on the surrounding community following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as well as the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill. “Local leaders recognized the need for a community foundation to strengthen human services, education/workforce development, and coastal preservation efforts in our area, as well as to serve as “the community bucket” for national and international assistance in the event of a future emergency or natural disaster,” according to bayoudf.com.

As many are aware, Hurricane Ida made its landfall on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in August of 2021, and Ida’s turbulent winds and powerful storm surges had made it so that an estimated 25 percent of homes in Lafourche and Terrebonne Parish were destroyed or deemed uninhabitable. As a result, approximately two-thirds of the Nicholls State University community had reported that their homes had sustained damage from the storm, and one-in-five students reported their homes to be destroyed or uninhabitable.

The above estimates are only a small piece of the massive effects left behind by this storm as they only focus on living conditions. Many members in the Nicholls community saw access to reliable income, transportation, and much, much more disrupted by Ida, which is why this donation of over $75,000 from Shell and the Bayou Community Foundation is appreciated months after the storm.

Dr. Jay Clune, president of Nicholls State University, remarked on the donation with the following words, “many of our students and their families have literally lost the roof over their heads with estimates of weeks, months, and even longer for recovery and rebuilding efforts to truly take shape in the hardest-hit communities. Without the generosity and support of partners such as Shell and BCF, it would be impossible for Nicholls to enact our vision to be the intellectual, economic and cultural heart of the Bayou Region.” To donate towards the efforts of the Bayou Community Foundation’s Hurricane Ida Relief, click here.

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Louisiana State Parks Rebuild Following Hurricane Ida

In their continuing coverage of the commercial, regional, and environmental aftermath left in the wake of 2021’s Hurricane Ida, this recent article from The Advocate outlines that because some of Louisiana’s state parks had received monumental damages from the Fall 2021 storm, they are being altered in their rebuilding.

One such state park is Tickfaw State Park, which is located in an isolated pocket of Livingston Parish and encompasses approximately 1,200 acres (most of which are undeveloped). It was reported that prior to August 29th, when Hurricane Ida made its historic landfall in Port Fourchon, Tickfaw State Park was so heavily set in an overarching shadow as a result of a tree canopy, that the sky was very rarely seen. Then the eyewall of Hurricane Idaknocked down an estimated 80% of the trees and buried them mostly in mud so that the 30-foot arm of a rescue excavator couldn’t reach them from the roads running through the swamp-filled state park.

Unfortunately, the damage observed at Tickfaw State Park is too similar to other parks in the state, which has caused the deputy assistant secretary at the Louisiana Office of State Parks, Clifford Melius, to wonder about both the longevity of these parks and the short-term solutions that may be possible. Melius commented saying, “This is going to be a major change to the ecosystem,” and he also wondered “do we repair the boardwalks when there’s no swamp to walk over?”

For decades, the Louisiana State Park system has been very regenerative, despite the annual state parks budget being regularly lowered in favor of Higher Education and Healthcare budgets receiving the attention whenever the state government faced annual deficits. According to the statistics acquired by The Advocate, “between the fiscal year 2008 and the fiscal year 2017, Louisiana reduced annual state general fund contributions by 34% from $29.7 million to $19.7 million.”

Despite this significant decrease in funding, recent years have shown that the Louisiana State Parks system has only grown in popularity. In fact, Louisiana’s 21 State Parks ended the 2021 Fiscal Year on June 30 with 1.5 million visitors, which is the highest number of recorded visitors in a Fiscal year- in recent memory. Additionally, 11 of the total 21 parks made a profit, which is quite the achievement when compared to the system’s owing of $1.5 million on June 30.

After Hurricane Ida, seven State Parks had to close because of severe damages they received, and thorough assessments are still being conducted by park officials, who estimate approximately $4 million in damages. This figure is determined to be roughly one-third of the parks departments’ funds dedicated to repairing and improving facilities.

Melius stated that he would like to see the parks reopened as quickly as possible, which might mean that he and his office will be “short-circuiting the long ponderous path of paperwork and congressional approvals that delays recovery for months.”

For instance, the state park in Fontainebleau, which is located near Mandeville, has sustained damages to their air conditioning facility, which would normally result in a bidding process to hire contractors. Instead, Melius took action and sent in his own staff to replace the air conditioning unit and reopen the park in just two-day at a cost of just $2,500 rather than the $10,000 cost and several weeks of delay that an “out of house team” would have called for.

Melius had said, “in-house saved us money and we didn’t have to wait on contractors to come in and do it,” because otherwise “during all that time I have to keep the park closed because I can’t air condition the buildings.” This improvement to how we assess and process the damages occurring in our state parks is just one way in which theLouisiana State Parks Department is reinvigorating its park system in the rebuilding stage.

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