More than one million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi were left without power when Ida slammed into our shores as a massive Category 4 hurricane. In the weeks since August 29th, power has been restored for most fortunate towns, corner stores and supermarkets are re-opening their doors, and crews are still working round the clock to clear fallen trees and debris from roadways and homes. These small signs of progress amid the monumental task of repairing the damage inflicted by Hurricane Ida are seemingly endless, but one small bayou community south of Jefferson Parish is struggling. Satsuma Realtors is proud to highlight our very own agent Renae Berthelot, who is taking to the internet to raise awareness of her hometown’s plea for help.
“They are strong, resilient, and resourceful people,” said Renae, who grew up in Jean Lafitte. She calls it a “V-shaped levee” and described the ongoing struggle of this small Cajun town and its neighbors, including Crown Point.
For the past two weeks, Renae has been stationed in her hometown, handing out cleaning supplies, non-perishables, hygiene supplies, and infant essentials. Satsuma Realtors supported Renae’s donative drive, supplying Renae’s immediate need for bleach and RestorOx.
“Satsuma Realtors is saddened by the destruction of our communities. We are committed to rebuilding better than ever and will always provide the utmost support to our agents, their families, and their communities,” said Joe Gerrity, partner and broker at Satsuma Realtors.
These small communities are feeling forgotten in the wake of Ida. As major cities like New Orleans restore power, water, and begin opening schools, nothing could be further from the truth for Jean Lafitte and Crown Point. Both local schools, an elementary and a high school, are closed indefinitely, and children are facing forced relocation to obtain an education. But it’s not just education that’s the issue, the small towns are struggling to get hold of food and other resources.
“The only grocery store in town is the Piggy Wiggly,” said Renae. “Unfortunately, this storm forced the owners to completely gut the building. The Dollar General is open, but it’s nothing really like having a fully operating grocery store.”
Normally, as you drive out of the main town of Jean Lafitte, you’ll see webbing, trawl, and crab traps throughout these fishing communities. Local post-work favorites like Cochiara Shipyard and Marina, a popular resting spot to pick up live bait, and Mitch Martin’s Welcome Inn are now badly damaged and need help. “You have an island that relies on tourism and has three popular restaurants for tourists to enjoy good home-cooked Cajun food. These restaurants — Jan’s, Boutte’s, and Voleo’s – have sustained incredible damage, but the community is hopeful that they will come back soon. These types of places not only feed the tourists, but also the people in these communities,” added Renae.
The neighboring island Lower Lafitte lost both its main marinas, which served as beacons for local boating services and job creation. Some families lost their homes, boats, and business — or all three — because of the damage and aftermath. Additionally, floating marsh and mud are blocking the intercoastal canal.
“From our elders to our small children, everyone is surrounded by mud and marsh. The trawler boats that were destroyed in the storm means there is no income for these families,” said Renae. Despite these hardships, Renae and her community remain optimistic. “I wish you could see the progress we’ve made these past few weeks. Everyone has truly come together. We will get things fixed. It’s what we do, after all.”
Renae also expressed her gratitude towards the Mayor of Jean Lafitte who is taking care of all the bayou communities that surround his town as if they were his own. Her biggest concern now isn’t the here and now, it’s the fear of being forgotten and left in the mud. “I’m scared in just a few shorts weeks that everyone will forget about us down here. It feels as if people don’t fully grasp the needs of these communities.”
So, we bet you’re wondering what YOU can do to help these communities, even after suffering your own post-Ida struggles. “Please donate cleaning supplies,” said Renae. “Call an elected official, or contact one of the local churches, and come down to help us cook. We need to offer these families support and assistance with gutting their houses and businesses. Any level of help can still make a tremendous difference,” she added.
If you would like to learn more about how you can help directly or would like to make a donation, please contact St. Anthony Church in Lafitte, LA at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.stanthonylafitte.org/. To contact the church coordinator, Ms. Ellie Melancon, please call 504-783-3143. All mail donations can be sent to St. Anthony Church 2653 Jean Lafitte Blvd Lafitte, LA 70067.