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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Pelicans Donate to Nicholls for Hurricane Relief

Always a celebrated component of Louisiana athletics, the New Orleans Pelicans recently showed their support for their neighboring communities by donating $100,000 to Nicholls State University for hurricane relief, according to the school.

The large donation, which was announced by the team at an open practice held on Nicholls campus, is set to help members of the larger Nicholls community recover from the devastating Hurricane Ida after a majority of the service region of the university was affected by the August 29th storm. As a result of Ida’s damaging winds and floodwaters, many student-athletes were dispersed across the country to several states where they gathered at host universities to practice for the upcoming athletic season.

Despite the many challenges they faced, these student-athletes kept the competitive spirit of Colonel athletics alive and remained focused in these new settings. One Sports Illustrated article recounted how the coaching staff of the Nicholls State Colonels men’s basketball team secured temporary homes for 16 players and coaches to sleep, eat, and practice amid damages sustained in the parish.

Coach Austin Claunch told Kevin Sweeney of SI, “let’s see if we can get somewhere quickly, and we can make it like a 2–3 week training camp and really benefit from it, almost like a team retreat,” showing the optimism of Nicholls’ coaching staff in the face of disaster.

The $100,000 donated by the New Orleans Pelicans will help to counterbalance some of the unexpected costs that the university had experienced to keep their athletic teams working and practicing together in Ida’s aftermath.

Dr. Jay Clune, President of Nicholls State University, said of the gift from the NBA organization, “we are so grateful for generous partners like the New Orleans Pelicans for coming to our aid in a time of need. This donation will benefit not only student-athletes, but also many of our students who lost homes in this storm. This will help so many students continue to succeed in the face of adversity.”

The announcement of the donation was made public as the New Orleans Pelicans held their annual open practice on Saturday, October 16 at the David R. Stopher Gymnasium, which is located on the campus of Nicholls State University. The open practice offered Pelicans fans a first-hand opportunity to get an inside look at the 2021-2022 team and to show their support for the South Louisiana communities that were directly impacted by Hurricane Ida.

Tickets for the event were primarily limited to schools and organizations located in Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes that were directly affected by Ida with a particular focus on local high school basketball teams, first responders and youth-centered organizations. Tickets were distributed by the Nicholls State University Athletic Department, who distributed available tickets on behalf of the Pelicans.

Pelicans Governor, Gayle Benson, said of the event, “as South Louisiana continues to rebuild after the devastation caused by Hurricane Ida, our organization remains steadfast on providing resources to help these impacted communities recover. Our players, coaches, and staff could not be more excited to show our support for South Louisiana and put on a great show at open practice. I also want to thank Nicholls State University for graciously opening their facilities and hosting this event.”

Specifically, when speaking about the Pelicans’ donation to Nicholls, team governor Gayle Benson said, “it brings thePelicans family great joy to contribute to the Nicholls State University hurricane relief fund. Our partners at Nicholls did a fabulous job of hosting our open practice this past weekend and we are appreciative of the hurricane relief work their team is doing to help support students in the community. We must continue to support those impacted by Hurricane Ida’s destruction.”

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Nicholls Received Donation to House Displaced Students

After Hurricane Ida struck the southeastern portion of Louisiana, hundreds of college students who had just started their 2021 Fall semesters were, unfortunately, displaced. Luckily, many colleges and universities across the state had opened their classrooms, dormitories, and facilities to these displaced college students, including Houma’s Nicholls State University. In fact, in order to provide living spaces for three dozen of their displaced students, Nicholls has been renovating their South Babington Hall thanks to a $125,000 donation from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, according to a press release from the school

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation, or the BRAF, was initially created in 1964 as a philanthropic organization offering relief and service projects across South Louisiana by working with local governments, partnering with nonprofit organizations, and issuing grants. The BRAF’s donation will be used to restore 18 dorm rooms that are located on the first floor of the building in order to provide living spaces to 36 Nicholls students. These students had previously lived off-campus, having been displaced by Hurricane Ida, but once the dorms are renovated they will have a place to call their home-away-from-home.

Lois Smyth spoke on behalf of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation as the director of their Donor Services, saying, “We understand that Nicholls State University received significant damages from Hurricane Ida, leaving many students homeless. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is pleased to support the work taking place in the Bayou region and it is our hope that this grant will assist with accommodating displaced students.”

Nicholls President Dr. Jay Clune said of the donation, “While many of us are rebuilding our homes after Hurricane Ida, there are many more who do not have a home to return to. We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. Because of this gift, students will no longer have to worry about having a roof over their heads or where they are going to sleep. This is what it means to be Louisiana Strong.”

These renovations will consist of the installation of refreshed and refurbished lighting, the application of new coats of paint to the bottom floor, and repairs made to the various ceilings, flooring, and furniture in the various dorm rooms. While these renovations are expected to make up a large sum of the total $125,000 donation, the school reports that any additional funds will be used to update the building’s heating and cooling systems. Luckily, the renovations are only expected to last under a month, so students will be able to move in and enjoy the newly refreshed rooms before the semester is over.

Jeremy Becker, the Executive Director of The Nicholls Foundation, referred to these renovations as the “first step” to be made in helping students return to the campus, but there are still plenty more who could use the help as well. He had reportedly said, “This is a tremendous gift from BRAF and it will assist many students, but unfortunately the need is still great. We learn every day of more students needing not just assistance to attend Nicholls, but simply to have a place to call home. We will continue our fundraising efforts to meet that need as best it can be met.”

Recently, the Nicholls Foundation created the Campus Emergency and Hurricane Relief Fund in order to help students, faculty, and staff who have been impacted by storms like Hurricane Ida. The money collected from donations made to the fund will be used to help the community of Nicholls State University recover from the storm and get back on its feet. Donations to the Nicholls Foundation’s relief fund can be made here.

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BCF Awards Second Round of Grants through Bayou Recovery Fund

Residents in the Houma-Thibodaux area recently received another round of donations through the Bayou Recovery Fund thanks to the Bayou Community Foundation, according to Houma Today.

One week following Hurricane Ida making landfall at Port Fourchon and leaving a detrimental amount of damage in its wake, the Thibodaux-based foundation known as the Bayou Community Foundation for Hurricane Ida Relief has received thousands of donations from all over, resulting in the funding of nearly $1.8 million in grants since September 5, 2021.

Now, it was recently announced that the Bayou Community Foundation has approved a second round of grants and additional funding to be distributed to nonprofits in the affected areas. Officially, nearly $1.3 million in donations will be distributed to Houma and Thibodaux area residents recovering from the Category 4 storm and an additional $1.29 million will be distributed to 17 nonprofits in Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Grand Isle.

The Bayou Community Foundation’s president, Henry Lafont, said the following in a news release regarding the second round of donations and grants being approved for distribution: “Thanks to the compassion and generosity of individual and corporate donors around the country, Bayou Community Foundation has been able to act swiftly and effectively over the past five weeks to fund programs that are filling the most urgent needs of our residents like food, water, and essential supplies. Our local nonprofits are doing amazing work to help the suffering among us.”

Since September 5th, the funds that have been disbursed to nonprofits have helped the workers and volunteers distribute hot meals, nonperishable food items, water, gasoline, clothing, hygiene supplies, cleaning instruments and agents, and much more to residents affected by the storm. In addition to the supplies stemming from the funds, the donations have also helped to secure and provide temporary housing, classroom supplies, educational equipment, and medical programs to the Southeastern Louisiana residents.

When addressing the longevity of such donations, Lafont went on to say, “we know this is just the beginning, though,” Lafont said. “As we turn the corner from relief to recovery, the Bayou Recovery Fund is positioned to help address longer-term needs in Lafourche, Terrebonne and Grand Isle like the housing crisis we now face and the mental health needs that we expect to come.”

In the future, the Bayou Community Fund is looking to raise an additional $10 million for storm recovery efforts. All donations gifted to the Fund are tax-deductible and are used to fund emergency grants to local nonprofits providing direct, critical relief, recovery, and rebuilding services in the aftermath of the hurricane to those most affected in the Bayou Region. Previously, on September 15, 2021- just a week after the fund was initiated, $449,000 in Bayou Recovery Fund Grants were awarded.

As of this second round of grants being announced to several agencies and nonprofits across southeastern Louisiana, several have commented on the announced grants such as the Executive Director of the Lafourche Education Foundation, Paula Rome, who said the following in response to the planned $100,000 grant along with the Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence: “with this grant, LEF will be able to help our Lafourche schools that were hardest hit by Hurricane Ida replenish much-needed classroom supplies and equipment for our teachers and students across the parish.”

Similarly, Bob Stewart, Ph.D, Vice President of Friends of Grand Isle said of his organization’s grant, “this grant from the Bayou Community Foundation provides critical relief to our first responders who have so selflessly served Grand Isle in the wake of Hurricane Ida. The Friends of Grand Isle are committed to providing financial relief to our residents and businesses to build a stronger Grand Isle.”

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Terrebonne Parish Sees Double Garbage and Debris pickup in wake of Hurricane Ida

Exactly a month after Terrebonne Parish suffered historic levels of loss due to Hurricane Ida, it was reported by HoumaToday that more than 7,000 tons of household garbage has been picked up across the parish– nearly double the standard amount during that time frame.

This enormous increase in garbage pickup equates to an extraordinary amount of added workload and man-hours put in by sanitation employees who were also citizens of the parish and thus impacted by Hurricane Ida alongside the citizens whose garbage they picked up. The employees that work for Terrebonne Parish’s sanitation contractor, Pelican Waste, faced various challenges in housing, transportation, and other storm-related issues since the Category 4 storm’s August 29 landfall.

The solid waste director of Terrebonne Parish, Clay Naquin, told Parish Council members at the September 29 council meeting that his department “tried everything they could” to get Pelican Waste employees back into the parish following the storm so that cleanup could begin. The “everything” Naquin referred to included providing power generators, temporary housing, and three square meals a day whenever possible to his workers.

Once they were back in the parish, collection crews from multiple contractors went out across the parish to pick up as much commercial, mixed, and debris garbage that they could, despite delays faced along the way. Naquin urged the public’s adherence to FEMA guidelines that indicate how debris should be stored and stacked at the curbside. Similarly, collection crews follow FEMA protocols when it comes to debris collection, and their garbage trucks are usually followed by teams ensuring that such protocols are being followed.

Because of the increase in debris pickup this past month, adhering to FEMA guidelines at both the waste management and resident level is of utmost importance, according to Naquin. He told council members, “if we don’t follow the protocol that FEMA puts out there, we have a chance of losing funding. can tell you right now, we’re probably pushing $6 million-plus in our debris collection, and if we don’t follow this, we have a chance of losing everything.”

Outside of the routine garage pickup, many Terrebonne Parish residents have been bringing their garbage and debris to the parish’s designated drop-off sites. Having citizens haul their own debris and garbage to these sites significantly lessens the workload placed on individual garbage collecting crews. As of the September 29 Terrebonne Parish Council meeting, Naquin reported that 121 tons of vegetation, 2,822 tons of mixed debris, and 5,378 tons of commercial mixed debris have been dropped off at these designated locations.

Naquin also emphasized that a parish-hired contractor, DRC, had picked up 674,167 cubic yards of storm debris across a total of 12,140 loads. He then provided a figure that was given by Governor John Bel Edwards in a recent news conference in which he stated that the state picked up 1 million cubic yards of debris on all state roads affected by the hurricane. Naquin compared this to DRC’s average of 35,000 cubic yards of debris picked up daily, saying “I’m giving those numbers just to show you that this crew, DRC is out there, really working.”

In addition to accruing significant amounts of debris in the wake of Hurricane Ida, Terrebonne Parish saw about 85% of its signage become lost or damaged during the storm. Out of these 17,500 signs, about 5% have been restored and reset, and parish public works director David Rome assured the council that the department is prioritizing signs at the top of the restoration list, due to civil and transportation importance. The restoration list of signs to be reset sees stop signs, followed by street name signs, then yield, and speed limit signs in that sequential order.

Little by little, the various departments and agencies across Terrebonne Parish are putting in the man-hours and effort necessary to help the area “bounce back” from a detrimental storm season, thus offering a small glimmer of hope in these turbulent times.

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