Community leaders gathered with Rev. Jesse Jackson Tuesday as the leader launched his humanitarian relief drive for victims of the Baton Rouge flood.
Faith leaders, businesses, and other community frontrunners met at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters asking Chicago residents to get involved with donating needed non-perishable goods to the victims of the worst U.S. natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy. The Rainbow PUSH Relief Assistance/United Christian Faith Ministries, in collaboration with the Southern Louisiana Flood Disaster Assistance, is sending these items directly to Louisiana.
Over 60,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the recent floods and over 100,000 have applied for federal assistance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s individual assistance grant maxes out at $33,000 for home repair, but many residents will likely get much less than that. The average FEMA payout to recent disaster victims was $7,100 for 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, $7,400 for the San Diego wildfires of 2007 and 2008, and $8,000 to 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, according to FEMA data obtained by the Advocate.
Helping those who may be unable to recover without the financial assistance they need, like the elderly, is one of the initiative’s top priorities.
“Many of the people who own homes are without savings,” Jackson said. “This is their lifetime investment, and they have no flood insurance. And those that have flood insurance may not have enough insurance.”
Michael Eaddy of People’s Church of the Harvest Church of God in Christ appealed to other faith leaders, requesting their help in sharing the message to their congregations.
“It is very necessary that we rally our churches to help this effort,” he said. “There are many that are hurting; there are those that are truly suffering, as a result of this disaster. So, I’m making an appeal to faith leaders and churches everywhere to meet and to join with Rev. Jesse Jackson. Let us rally our people, let us bring together our resources,” he said. “There are brothers and sisters who are in dire need, and they need us to respond.”
Local businessman Larry Huggins also voiced his support.
“On behalf of the Chicago Football Classic, we will definitely do something for the game,” Huggins said. “And I, on behalf of Riteway Huggins and Christmas in the Wards, I’m going to stop at Walmart and definitely make sure that diapers, socks, and baby food will be provided and will be on that truck headed to Louisiana.”
Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin urged the legal community as well as Chicagoans in general to get involved.
“We have an opportunity to give of ourselves and be a part of humanity — this great humanity that God has blessed us with,” he said. “And to give to those who’ve lost so much. They’ve lost physical goods, but one thing about it, they have not lost hope and we’ve got to make sure that they never lose hope [through] our giving.”
Andrea Dillon was born and raised in Louisiana and knows first-hand how a natural disaster can devastate a community. She says that many of her family members died from heartbreak after Katrina and that issues from such a storm are long-lasting.
“After the cameras go away, for the people that live there, it’s never the same,” she said. “People need some normalcy, they need their churches, they need their schools. “Can you imagine? The first day of school is hard enough when you’re just a regular kid. Now, you have no clothing; you don’t know where your people are. It’s just very depressing.”
To help local school children start the school year, some of the Rainbow PUSH donations will include school supplies. Out of the 500 backpacks given away this Saturday for back-to-school, 500 will go to Baton Rouge. Actions like these, Jackson said, can help ease some of the emotional stress that families are experiencing.
“People are just waking up from the trauma,” he said.
Rainbow PUSH cannot accept money or clothes. Requested items include bottled water, first aid kits, feminine hygiene products, disposable diapers and baby wipes, dog and cat food, dust masks, cleaning supplies, toiletries, baby formula, and Boost or Ensure for the elderly. All donations must be new and unopened.
The organization also says it needs hands on deck to help make phone calls, collect donations, and load trucks. A volunteer meeting will be held Tuesday, Aug. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters, located at 930 E. 50th St. Ideas are also welcome.
“Every idea is a valuable idea,” Jackson said.