Providing relief in wake of Hurricane Laura: A report from J. Antonio Fernandez, president and CEO of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of San Antonio, Inc.

A week ago, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of San Antonio, Inc. received a request from Bishop David L. Toups of the Diocese of Beaumont, Texas, asking for our help in providing bottled water and shelf-stable food to the people affected by Hurricane Laura.

We immediately sent a request by newsletter and social media to our community asking for bottled water or financial donations to assist our neighbors in Beaumont and Lake Charles, La. In 72 hours, we were able to collect and deliver more than 30,000 bottles of water and two pallets of food. I am always amazed by people’s generosity!

We did not see Beaumont in bad shape but Lake Charles was something else. Many roads were not drivable; electrical power lines were on the ground or hanging no more than four feet from the ground. Many generators were on the ground and fallen trees were all over the place. Signs and billboards were completely destroyed and the windows in high rise buildings blown out. The businesses to the right and left of the Catholic Charities’ office had considerable damage. It was very sad and a bit overwhelming. The Catholic Charities building was in great shape; it only lost its sign. Was it God or just good structural building?

It was even sadder to hear how thousands of people had to evacuate and go to other cities, mostly New Orleans. Some people were so eager to return to their homes they had already driven back. One person with whom we spoke had already suffered through two hurricanes and was grateful to have survived a third.

The Catholic Charities employees in Beaumont were in good spirits. The employees in Lake Charles, as well as neighbors in the community, were clearly overwhelmed. Their homes were damaged, they had been without electricity for a couple of days and had been told it would be several more days before power was restored. Even cell service had been interrupted. And at the end of the day, we are all still in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

As we drove home and reflected on what we saw and experienced, we talked about how amazing it is to see so many people in our local community step up to help neighbors they’ve never met, to meet their basic needs with love, dignity, and respect. What an honor it is to be the messenger with tidings of hope and love, support and encouragement. And now, we are focusing again in San Antonio. The need keeps growing weekly, especially since Covid-19  started.

Catholic Charities Disaster Relief Efforts

Catholic Charities relief efforts begin with immediate needs of survivors. Efforts continue, sometimes for years, with long-term assistance that helps individuals and families rebuild their lives.

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