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Bossier Parish leaders team up with local churches to aid Hurricane Ida evacuees

Evacuees from Southern Louisiana receiving dinner at Cypress Black Bayou Recreation area on Sunday, Aug. 29.

Bossier Parish leaders, local churches and the Cypress Black Bayou Park director have come together to help those displaced by Hurricane Ida.

On Sunday evening, prayers, encouragement and 90 pizzas were brought to the Cypress Black Bayou Park and Recreation Area in Benton in order to feed more than 300 evacuees who were affected by Hurricane Ida.

After speaking with Robert Berry, Executive Director of the Cypress Black Bayou Recreation and Water Conservation District, about southern Louisiana residents taking shelter from Hurricane Ida at the Cypress Black Bayou Park and Recreation area, District 36 State Senator Robert Mills reached out to a few local churches to see if they could help.

“As an example of Bossier Parish’s compassion, I made two phone calls and Sunday lunch and dinner for close to 300 displaced people was taken care of thanks to First Bossier and Cypress Baptist Churches. Just amazing,” said Mills.

One evacuee spoke with the Press-Tribune and shared her gratitude for all who have helped her and her family during this time.

“We are very, very appreciative. We did not come here expecting what these people are doing for us. Bossier is a great community. When we were at the meeting today, my daughter got a little choked up. You see, last year my daughter drove a little mission from our church back home to help some people in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura. And after hearing how they were going to help us, it overwhelmed her. We are now on the other end of receiving help like she did a year ago. It was our blessing to give and now we are receiving a blessing from the people here. When I leave, I’m hoping I can pay this back to them in some way,” said Albany, Louisiana resident April Morgan.

Morgan also said that she and her family were hoping to go back home on Monday but after speaking with her son, who stayed home due to work obligations, it’s not likely that she will be able to travel back home for another 72 hours.

“A lot of our friends and family have stayed back home and I’m very concerned for their lives,” said Morgan

Berry says that the help provided to the evacuees is a group effort from local officials, community leaders and the community.

“I cannot stress enough how our local government has come forward to help. This is not about one single person. This is about everyone working together as a team and a community to do what’s right. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. The sheriff’s department, fire district, the Town of Benton, the police jury and our state senators have all worked together to make this happen. Senator Mills has been extraordinarily great with this process. He’s reached out to people. Within an hour of him calling, we had churches bringing food,” said Berry.

Elaborating further on how our local community leaders have positively affected the lives of evacuees, Berry explained that a child who was supposed to start chemotherapy where they live will now receive their treatment here locally.

“We currently have a two year old who is here right now with a brain tumor. The child was supposed to start chemo, but couldn’t because they had to evacuate. There have been arrangements made that that child will get into a facility on Monday,” said Berry.

Berry went on to say that more evacuees will be arriving at the Cypress Black Bayou Park and Recreation Area. He is expecting to have up to 400-425 people by Monday evening.

“After everyone comes in on Monday, we will have between 400-425 people. We’re at capacity.

Knowing that Labor Day weekend is fast approaching, Berry said he’s already had to cancel many Labor Day reservations to allow storm evacuees to stay as long as necessary.

“Hopefully everyone will understand. But what we’re doing right now is strictly just taking care of evacuees. I spoke with two evacuees earlier and they confirmed their homes are gone. We’re dealing with people that we won’t know for a couple of days what they will be facing. We got to try to lift them up as much as we can, give them some insurance as much as we can that we’re going to take care of them,” said Berry.

To further assist evacuees, Berry says that the Cypress Black Bayou board of directors will hold an emergency meeting to discuss how they can further help those displaced.

“On Monday, the board of directors of the park will hold an emergency meeting and discuss how we can help the evacuees that might have to stay here for an extended period of time. These people had to leave within hours with what possessions they could get,” Berry said.

“Last year and this year have been troubling for everybody. First with COVID and just everything going on. We just don’t want to put any more financial burdens on these people if we don’t have to,” he added.

After speaking with evacuees, Berry is asking for assistance from the medical community in hopes of bringing a mobile clinic to the park.

“We do need some type of mobile clinic or something that can come see some of these people. We have a lot of elderly people here that need medications. They left without some of their medications. Whatever we can do to get somebody to come and help them with those needs, would be much appreciated,” said Berry.

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