Fontenot

OBERLIN - He said his legislative seatmate was in trouble, so he jumped to help.

State Rep. Bryan Fontenot of Thibodaux said it was a "no brainer," for him when his legislative seatmate, Rep. Dewith Carrier of Oakdale, called and said he needed help for his residents, in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura.

"If you're from Lafourche Parish, you know what it's like - you know how to rebound after a hurricane. We're experienced in it."

Fontenot said he rallied colleagues, and they hit the road to southwest Louisiana. 

He joined State Reps. Vinny St. Blanc of Franklin, Marcus Bryant of St. Martinville, and Beau Beaullieu of Iberia, Stuart Bishop of Lafayette, and Jean-Paul Coussan of Lafayette, for the relief.

Their goal was to help Carrier and State Rep. Troy Romero of Jennings. 

"There was a big crew going to the Lake Charles area, but the small, rural areas were not getting any attention. And boy was he right. We fed the National Guard in Oberlin, First Responders in Jennings and Deridder, and the Beauregard Sheriff's Office. We fed over 600 people."

"Our legislative team brought tents, a mobile kitchen, over 600 links of sausage, buns, chips and over 1,000 bottles of water. Each state rep acquired or paid for something," Fontenot said. 

State Rep. Bryant of St. Martinville said, "being on this trip caused me to realize how important it is to consider populations that live outside of major cities. They cannot be and should not be forgotten."

Ed Verdin, film artist and playwright, also tagged along for the trip. He said he heard a heartbreaking story from a couple, who flagged him down to their front yard. They told him their house had been totaled. 

"It was ironic however, because the front of the house looked normal. But a look from the back of the house showed a tree had fallen over the side of the house, which lifted the entire house beyond the front living room, and destroyed the inside. I saw their washer and dryer was crushed as a result of tree impact, and it was hanging on a branch of the tree, from inside the attic," Verdin said. 

Fontenot said he brought a catering truck, a cooking team and utensils to feed folks in the area. 

"The devastation was unreal - what hurricanes can do to small communities that have never historically seen or experienced a storm. Their infrastructure wasn't prepared, because they've never had to deal with it."

"When you see a long line of people waiting in a line for a plate of white beans, rice and catfish, in the heat, smile and say thank you, man that really does something to you."

State Rep. Beaullieu said this was his first experience with a hurricane outside of Iberia Parish.

"It reminded me so much of what we went through with Hurricane Andrew, but there was one huge difference. We're blessed with resources here in Iberia, unlike the poor rural areas of our state, which are very limited with opportunity."

Maneuvering around power lines which he said were down everywhere, Beaullieu said the group set up shop with a Red Cross Response Team, in the stadium parking lot at Oberlin High School.

"I'd also like to thank Evangeline Bread of Lafayette, who donated all of the bread for the sandwiches that we made."

"I can tell you that Hurricane Laura's impact is just unfathomable, because the damage was vast. My heart really goes out to all the folks who live in Southwest Louisiana."

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