With its truck tires riding low under the weight of thousands of pounds of relief supplies, Greenville's "Cajun Country Convoy" rolled into this southwestern Louisiana town Saturday afternoon.
And so begins the first of two articles Daily Reflector reporter Paul Dunn has submitted from Thibodaux, Louisiana. Having hitched a ride with the group of grizzled Greenville men bent on assisting Katrina victims, Dunn is now documenting their progress as they unload the massive generosity of Pitt County residents.
After that, they will probably help distribute the mountains of food, clothing, paper products, tools, gasoline and other supplies that are growing daily in a Thibodaux warehouse. The Louisiana towns of Houma and Grand Isle, both on the Gulf Coast, have been particularly hard hit and may be the men's focus in the coming days.
"I don't really care what we do here as long as I know it's for a good cause," Dick Carney said. "I'm relieved to know a system has been put in place and that things are being taken care of."
When I spoke with him last night, Carney (my old man and the reason I’m following all this so closely) sounded positively exhausted.
“We’s whooped - but I think we’re doin’ some good.”
For two days now Carney and the rest have sorted and organized supplies, trying to brig some semblance of order to a warehouse designated as a staging area for donated goods. Thibodaux itself dodged much of Katrina’s fury, but victims from nearby towns and parishes have poured into the small town.
“The damage around here is minor, but you ain’t gotta go to far to see total wipeout.”
Two of Carney’s cohorts ventured into the community of Grand Isle, an area that bore the brunt of the class 4 hurricane. Residents on the small island are still without many necessities. Carney says the Red Cross hasn’t done much there yet, the National Guard just now has arrived and FEMA hasn’t even been heard from. That leaves the local citizens of Thibodaux and our hearty band of volunteers to siphon supplies to the storm victims, as well as the relief effort’s first responders. To that end, Carney and crew have purchased shelving for the supply warehouse in hopes it will help them organize the several tons of supplies that are piling up. It’s not very glamorous work, but these men didn’t make the 21 hour trip for just the photo ops. They came to help - if that means stocking shelves for eighteen hours - so be it. Monday morning, they’ll be back at it - but not before a night of rest.
“We’re gonna get a bite to eat and then get in the crib. We’s whooped.”