In disaster situations, it’s not up to just the government to give aid. Sometimes the individuals who make up the government can help to mobilize efforts and solve problems beyond the traditional logistical channels.
One example of that extracurricular effort came about last month, after record cold weather left water production facilities and distribution networks in north Louisiana in a shambles, with burst pipes and compromised production facilities cutting off access to fresh water for tens of thousands.
Discussions in the days after the frigid blast overran the state between District 48 Rep. Beau Beaullieu and District 78 Rep. John Illg, of Jefferson Parish, left the two representatives thinking of ways to help their neighbors to the north. The obvious solution was to provide potable water. The only question was how.
“The people of Shreveport were desperate for water,” Beaullieu said. “Between the two of us, we had some resources available that we could use to help get water to the people who needed it.”
Beaullieu began researching the price for water to be shipped up to north Louisiana. He came back with a price of $5,600 for a flatbed trailer full of bottled water.
“You can fit 19 pallets of water on a trailer,” Beaullieu said. “So we put the word out to see what kind of funds we could bring together.”
Beaullieu began to reach out to local organizations and other legislators. The response was quick, and very positive.
“The Iberia Kiwanis were the first to get back to me,” Beaullieu said. “That made me proud. It shows the kind of heart our community has.”
Other members of the Acadiana Legislative delegation made their commitments in response to a mass text.
“We’d get $50 here, $100 there,” Beaullieu said. “Everyone was in.”
Across the state, however, Illg and his fellow Samaritans had scored a major coup, coming up with a donation of 10 fully loaded trucks full of water.
“The Speaker (Clay Schexnayder) called and said to hold off, we had the water,” Beaullieu said. “So the question then became what to do with the money we raised.”
When they communicated with Dist. 6 Rep. Thomas Pressly of Shreveport, the perfect use for the funds presented itself.
“He said that the Shreveport Volunteer Network, which was the agency handling the relief, had lost its forklift,” Beaullieu said. “So we could send these truckloads of water, but they couldn’t offload it.”
Pressly asked if the funds could be used to rectify the situation.
“We said whatever you need, we were happy to be able to help,” Beaullieu said. “We were able to let them do what they do well.”