We recently all watched, helpless, as Harvey swept over the Texas coast and into Houston and western Louisiana, and those images flashing across our screens painted an all-too-familiar picture of destruction and despair. Meanwhile, in our region, we braced ourselves for an unknown blow that might land at any time. The City of New Orleans shut down, and people drew their loved ones near. This city remembers.
Now we can all catch our breath, blessedly unscathed, and look to the west to help begin the hard work ahead.
Though our building was closed – the safety of our team and our families comes first – email and phone lines buzzed with activity across United Way of Southeast Louisiana. Our Disaster Action Team, of which I am so proud to be a small part, flew into action, launching our Hurricane Harvey webpage before landfall, so our community and our neighbors would know what to expect, could access essential information and resources, and so we could begin investing, as a community – even as the full brunt of the disaster was still unfolding – in the long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts that we know lay ahead.
While I watched the waters rising in Houston, and felt the sadness that such devastation brings with it, I didn’t feel helpless. Backing such an incredible team as the one I am privileged to work alongside each day, I knew that we were already laying the groundwork for the great generosity of Southeast Louisiana to be able to come to fruition in helping our neighbors in the west. It is both a great blessing and curse that we have come through, not one, but four major disasters in our community in the last 18 months alone, and that gives us great experience in how to quickly mobilize resources, organize people, and get families back into their homes. Even as we continue to rebuild in our own communities, I’m overwhelmed by the outpouring of support I see toward others in need. Because Southeast Louisiana remembers.
In the morning before the storm hit, our CEO had already reached out to his colleagues in Harvey’s path and has continued to be in contact. United Way of Southeast Louisiana stands with the communities affected by Hurricane Harvey. We have been here for 93 years, before, during, and after each storm. We will continue to be here to do everything we can for our region, and for our community further afield. Because what makes us able to overcome the very worst things that can happen, to grow better and stronger and not be beaten by incredible adversity, is that we help each other, that we lean on each other, and that we Live United.
Kiyomi Appleton Gaines
Executive Assistant to Michael Williamson
United Way of Southeast Louisiana