Charities and volunteers rally for Hurricane Laura relief | Weather/Traffic

Disaster relief organizations across the region spent Friday assessing the damage caused by Hurricane Laura and how best to help those affected.

Ben Broussard, spokesperson for Catholic Charities of Acadiana, said groups like St. Joseph Diner and Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters were conducting damage assessments Friday to determine local needs.

“We are still in the damage assessment phase,” Broussard said. He said it was necessary for those assessments to be correct for the Federal Emergency Management Agency “to get people the right help.”

Broussard said Catholic charities collected 30 to 40 damage reports submitted Friday. “There is a lot of roof damage and a lot of trees have fallen on the houses.”

He said volunteer agencies had sent teams of tarps and chainsaws to solve the problem.

He said the fear is that water damage west of Lafayette will end up in homes. He said some families had evacuated the area and had not yet returned to their homes to assess the damage.

“We only did a few oil changes; we expect that number to increase,” he said.

He said that as Catholic Charities and its partners collect damage claims, they will be able to assign help from volunteers who live closer to the damage.

He said that as people find out they have been spared, they become committed to helping others.

VOAD’s Elsa Dimitriadis said volunteers have been collecting information on the number of people evacuated from elsewhere at local hotels. She said the “lowball” estimate is 575 hotel rooms in Lafayette and nearby communities are occupied by evacuees, though it’s uncertain how many people are in each room.

“We met this morning,” she said of VOAD organizations. “There were many attendees at our meeting.”

This included organizations that do not typically meet with VOAD partners.

She said VOAD, hosted within United Way of Acadiana, will work in Lake Charles with United Way of Southwest Louisiana. She said the volunteers would conduct a food drive on Monday, led by Second Harvest, which partners locally with St. Joseph Diner.

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She said United Way will store collected supplies locally.

Broussard said St. Joseph Diner prepared its first meal on Friday since closing for the storm. He said the restaurant would expand to produce more than the 2,100 meals a day it typically prepares to feed evacuees and others.

Broussard listed the following ways people can help by donating:

• Monetary donations can be made through https:give.classy.org/disaster

• Text to give on air or digital TV. Text RELIEF to 797979

• Checks should be mailed to Catholic Charities of Acadiana, PO Box 3177, Lafayette LA 70502

• Disaster Amazon Wishlist, in-kind donations to help with disasters, https://amzn.to/34zUmxA

• Disaster Food Drive Amazon Wishlist: In-kind food donations to help with disasters https://amzn.to/31Aw30p

Here’s how people can volunteer:

• Volunteer link: http://bit.ly/CCAdisastersvolunteers

• TV/radio should direct volunteers to www.catholiccharitiesacadiana.org

Here is how users can file reports:

• Report storm damage to Catholic Charities of Acadiana by texting DISASTER to 797979

• Residents should also report damage to OSHEP: https://bit.ly/31wjeV0