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Businesses and residents of southeastern Louisiana are continuing to reel in the aftermath of the worst natural disaster since 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. This month’s deadly flooding started after the skies opened up on Aug. 12 and the torrential rains continued through several days. The downpours caused widespread flooding from Jefferson Davis Parish to the west, near Lake Charles, and especially in and around the Baton Rouge area. In all 20 parishes were declared flood disaster areas.
Thirteen deaths so far have been attributed to the flooding, and Mike Steele, spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness, says officials believe the total statewide figure will exceed 100,000 damaged or destroyed homes.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever in my entire life, or will I ever witness again, the amount of rainfall in that three-day period,” says Guy Barone, president and CEO of Xenetch, makers of laser and rotary engravers. “I knew bad things were going to happen, but I could never have imagined this.”
GSG (Graphic Solutions Group), a supplier to the screen, sign, digital imaging and embroidery industries, says it suffered damage to its facility in Baton Rouge.
“Our Baton Rouge office took on significant water-more than 30 inches in the warehouse,” says Brandon Smith, the company’s director of marketing.
GSG had to divert orders from that branch to other locations, he adds.
Smith last week said the Baton Rouge branch was about 85 percent up and running, but some of its employees are still hurting: four of them were displaced from their homes by the water. The company has launched a company-wide donation matching initiative at all seven of its offices. The donation-matching program raised an estimated $8,500 in just the first 24 hours, and customer donations soon pushed that total up to $19,000.
New Orleans wrap shop PG NOLA put the call out on social media that it was accepting donations for flood victims. It posted a picture of its large shop truck, which it dubs “Big Bird,” urging people to help fill it with their donations of toiletries, cleaning supplies, baby diapers, food and toys.
As owner Kevin Kempf wrote on the shop’s Facebook page, “Many have asked if they could send money or gift cards, YES YOU CAN!!! We will keep record of that and provide receipts for all items purchased with that money. With the items people are needing most and from what we are being told, if you would like to donate a gift card, maybe a Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, Lowes, etc. … card would be good. If you have questions about stores and if we have them down here, don’t hesitate to ask.”
Kempf tells Sign & Digital Graphics that since he put the word out, he’s been getting donations sent in from all over, some coming through the PayPal account he set up and even some care packages that have been sent in anonymously, with needed items purchased and delivered through Amazon.
“I have a handful of friends who lost everything they own-car, house, everything,” Kempf says.
He says he has been helping funnel items to friends and relatives who’ve been delivering them and they’ve been focusing a lot on the small towns out in the rural areas between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
He hasn’t heard of any wrap shops in the area that suffered damage, but he’s having his 16-year-old son, Collin, do Internet research to reach out and find ones that were.
“If you know of any WRAP/TINT/PRINT shop located in the affected areas, please let us know ASAP,” Kempf’s Facebook post reads. “Luckily, our shop in New Orleans made out alright, but so many others have not and we are gonna do whatever we can to help.”
He says that he’s heard from several vinyl film manufacturers who saw his post and have promised to send donations. He’s also heard from a wrap shop owner in Alabama that is promising a 53-foot trailer full of donations that will be arriving in the next week.
Also, PG Nola and a printing shop called Crazy Ones Nola teamed up with the Social Club Barbershop in nearby Metairie to produce T-shirts, with all the proceeds from their sales going to fund supplies needed to help flood victims.
“I reached out to Kevin and asked him if he would be willing to donate the design” (for the shirts), says Oscar Gale, owner of the Social Club Barbershop and a friend of Kempf’s for about two decades. He says it’s been a collaborative effort among a lot of people, and that he and Kempf have been in constant communication.
“Our main focus is to try to get to affected areas that aren’t getting the immediate attention,” Gale says, adding that many people living out in rural areas can’t get to locations that offer assistance. He personally has delivered multiple truckloads of food, water, toiletries, diapers and the like to these victims.
The Social Hour Barbershop is selling the T-shirts that Kempf designed and Crazy Ones Nola printed. The shirts are $25 each, shipping and handling included, and after the cost of shipping all the proceeds are going to buy supplies for the victims. The address to order shirts is: The Social Club Barbershop, 3515 Melville Dewey Drive, Suite 104, Metairie, Louisiana, 70002.
If you’d like to send a donation to Kempf’s shop, PG Nola, you can do that through PayPal at [email protected] or mail directly to PG NOLA, 320 Madison St., Gretna, Louisiana, 70053.
Natalie Frels and Mike Clark contributed to this report.