Hurricane Ida Stories

hurricaneFilling Unmet Needs for Vulnerable Families Through Collaboration 


When Hurricane Ida destroyed a Northshore woman’s makeshift wheelchair ramp, she couldn't enter and exit her home. 

Emma* has severe mobility issues and health problems, and lacked the resources to rebuild the ramp. In the sea of hurricane recovery needs, she could have easily been forgotten.  

Emma’s case was referred to the long-term recovery group for her area in March 2022, and nonprofit partners began coordinating funding, supplies, and labor. In May, volunteers with the Epworth Project spent 320 hours constructing a new and improved wheelchair ramp and completing minor roof and drywall repairs. Emma can now safely access her restored home.  

Through the support of our generous donors, United Way of Southeast Louisiana committed $1 million after Hurricane Ida to support projects like this through local long-term recovery groups. One year after the storm, significant work remains to fully rebuild our communities. Together with nonprofit partners, we continue to connect the dots to ensure no households are overlooked.   

If you or someone you know is in need of long-term recovery assistance from Hurricane Ida, click here for contact information for the Louisiana Disaster Case Management Program in your parish. 


*Name changed for client privacy. 




hurricaneReflections from Jean Lafitte Resident Kathy Powajbo 


The small community of Jean Lafitte was one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Ida. Kathy Powajbo, a volunteer leader at a supply distribution center supported by United Way and operated by St. Anthony Catholic Church in Lafitte, is one of many inspiring residents we worked with while supporting local relief efforts. 

“My name is Kathy Powajbo and I am a retiree from Entergy. Over the course of my employment, my family donated to United Way of Southeast Louisiana through biweekly payroll checks. During Hurricane Ida, I was able to see first-hand the work that United Way does in communities. 

“It was shortly after Hurricane Ida that United Way reached out to us at the storm distribution center at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Lafitte. Over the course of months following the hurricane, United Way brought and served food, supplies, and gift cards multiple times that were desperately needed in Lafitte. They also recruited help for our distribution center from companies like Verizon.   

“United Way Worldwide President and CEO Angela Williams personally came to Lafitte from Washington, D.C. and took a tour of the destruction. She was shocked and surprised how bad Lafitte was devastated.  The community of Lafitte felt that United Way was not only with us during restoration but also would be a voice in Washington when the opportunity exists regarding protecting our community. 

Because of all the support of United Way provided to Lafitte, it is coming back better and stronger.”  




Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders: Making Homes Whole Again 


hurricaneBrothers Jack* and Jeff* shared their family home in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, their entire lives. After their parents died, Jack stayed in the home to assist Jeff, who has a disability.  

Hurricane Ida sent a large tree through their roof and into Jeff’s bedroom, destroying a significant portion of the home. With funding support from United Way SELA, Fuller Center Disasters ReBuilders (FCDR) helped the brothers put their home back together. 

FCDR removed the tree and then began an extensive rebuilding process including gutting the entire home, completing foundation repairs, and replacing the roof. Because of the generosity of donors near and far, United Way is proud to be here for our neighbors before, during, and after the storms of life.  

*Names changed for client privacy 






Helping Families Navigate Legal Challenges Post-Disaster 


hurricaneLegal challenges are a frequent, often overlooked aspect of disasters. And the stakes are even higher for low-income families who lack resources to weather legal battles.  

United Way SELA provided funding from generous donors to Southeast Louisiana Legal Services following Hurricane Ida to ensure vulnerable families could access free disaster legal aid. From managing FEMA denial appeals to fighting contractor fraud, SLLS helps clients clear legal challenges on their road to recovery. SLLS Executive Director Laura Tuggle shared this on our collective impact after the storm.  

“United Way of Southeast Louisiana's investment in disaster legal services with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services was essential to our ability to quickly respond to the immediate legal needs of Hurricane Ida survivors. We hired a Disaster Legal Relief Fellow who has been part of the SLLS Disaster team's efforts to provide an array of critically needed assistance including: 

  • Providing legal representation to 1,705 survivors and their 4,053 household members in FEMA appeals, evictions, landlord-tenant disputes, heir property proof to claim access to disaster funds, contractor disputes, benefits claims, family law, and other disaster-related matters.  
  • Achieved $3,037,51.14 in direct economic benefits to disaster survivors through our legal work. 
  • Creation of 19 Know Your Rights blog resources on hot disaster topics accessed by 67,827 people and 5 Facebook Live events on Disaster-Law topics viewed by 68,428 people. 
  • 82 legal clinics and outreach events reaching 1,729 disaster survivors.  
  • Operating our Disaster Legal Helpline which has received 2,792 calls since 9/1/2022. 
  • 10 trainings for disaster case managers, pro bono attorneys, judges, and nonprofit partners about disaster-law topics. 

"...Though we still have a long way to go before our communities are rebuilt, with the support of the United Way, SLLS remains a legal lifeline to our community through all phases of disaster recovery.” 




hurricaneLocal United Ways Unite to Multiple Recovery Efforts 


Hurricane Ida majorly damaged many communities in Louisiana beyond United Way SELA's seven-parish service area. We supported our neighboring United Ways however possible, including granting emergency funding and delivering supplies. United Way of South Louisiana’s Ashlee Champagne shared this reflection on Living United after the storm: 

“As we approach the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Ida, we look back at the partnerships and friendship that came from such devastation. Hurricane Ida had no boundaries; it crossed parish lines and no one was spared.  

“Our combined United Way efforts united us through our darkest days. Our combined efforts made much bigger impacts and helped many more families than we could have done alone. A year later, we remain united and committed to rebuilding what Ida destroyed. We will not stop until the work is done.”




hurricaneAmeah’s New Wheelchair 


After Hurricane Ida damaged Warren’s home, he was in search of the items his 5-year-old daughter, Ameah, needed, like specialized formula for her feeding tube, medicine to control seizures, and diapers. United Way SELA connected him to our partners at LCMC to help with her nutritional and medical needs while working behind the scenes to make life a little easier for Ameah and her devoted dad.  


A United Way donor funded Ameah’s first custom wheelchair, which she received just in time for her 6th birthday and Christmas. The kindness of United Way supporters helped Ameah’s family recover from the storm and reimagine a stronger, brighter future. 





hurricaneSouthern Hospitality

In the early days of recovery, when residents are picking up the pieces on their properties, often without water or electricity, a hot meal is a welcome moment of relief and normalcy. United Way SELA partnered with local restaurants to serve nearly 12,500 meals throughout our seven-parish service region after Hurricane Ida. Meals were purchased at market rate to support income lost during the storm. Emmeline Johnston with Brechtel Hospitality shared this reflection on answering the call to feed our neighbors. 

“Following Hurricane Ida, we were approached by United Way SELA to assist in feeding the residents of Lafitte. It was extremely meaningful to be able to provide hot meals to the first responders and the residents who were most severely impacted by Ida, which left them without access to a grocery store, much less a restaurant. For our team at Bonfire it was not a question of if, but when do you need us there. Many of us have lived through similar situations. Helping our neighbors in their time of need is what we do.”