A heavy-haul truck carrying furniture for south Louisiana flood victims arrived Tuesday in Lafayette, the first of at least eight deliveries from manufacturers across the country that are donating tables, beds and other items lost last month.
To receive the aid, victims are required to fill out an application — which can be requested by emailing email@example.com — and have a FEMA number associated with the mid-August flooding, organizer Rae Gremillion said.
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"We're trying to make it where people who have been really impacted get something," said Gremillion, who is with the Greater Baton Rouge-Acadiana Volunteers of America.
Tens of thousands of Louisianans were flooded from their homes and work places when the skies dumped two to three feet of rain, swelling rivers in southeast, south-central and southwest Louisiana.
Many of the victims need furniture but cannot afford to refurnish, Gremillion said.
Gremillion said the applications already are pouring in, with the number at 350 and climbing.
All applications are due by Oct. 7, and will be screened by VOA staff to determine who gets what furniture. Those selected need to provide transportation and labor to load and haul the goods from a warehouse located at 1811 North University Ave., off Renaud Drive in north Lafayette.
"This program is open to anyone in the (Louisiana) community who lost their furniture due to the recent floods, but there is a limited amount of furniture that will be available," Gremillion said.
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Distribution will start soon. Those selected will be given a pick-up time and date in late September and October, and they will not be able to choose which items they would prefer.
The effort was hatched by Baton Rouge native Triche Leander, now a senior vice president at North Carolina furniture maker Caracole. It is being administered by the Acadiana-Baton Rouge branch of Volunteers of America with help from other nonprofits.
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Leander said she watched and monitored the mid-August event from afar.
"When all the flooding happened, we were following it on social media because we have friends and family in Baton Rouge and in Denham Springs," she said.
Then her son traveled to Baton Rouge to help.
"He called and said, 'Mom, you have no idea what it's like. This is horrible,'" Leander said.
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Then a friend from south Louisiana asked on social media if anyone knew anyone in the furniture industry who could help.
"She said, 'These people have lost everything,'" Leander said. "I said, 'You know, there is something I can do.'"
She discussed what her company could contribute with Caracole chief executive Scott Smith, then asked the whole industry for help in the trade publication Furniture Today. Other manufacturers located in California and Minnesota answered the call, and will send truckloads in the next days and weeks.
Leander said that over $1 million in furniture has been pledged, and a financial tally on what the long-haul trucking firms and Lafayette warehouse owner pitched in has not been completed.
Gremillion said her organization tried to lock down a warehouse in the Baton Rouge area but could not. "So we decided to take it on here (in Lafayette)."
Editor's note: This article was changed on Sept. 21, 2016, to note that the CEO of Caracole is Scott Smith.