Geismar Fire Chief Nat Stephens, dripping in sweat, spent Friday morning directing traffic as dozens of volunteers helped distribute supplies to families impacted by Hurricane Ida.
Wearing a safety vest, Stephens stood in front of the La. 73 fire station, trying to organize the traffic traveling the highway and those looking to pick up supplies at the drive-thru distribution.
Across Ascension Parish, groups were dealing with traffic, the heat and long lines of hungry and tired residents looking for relief after the hurricane left most of the parish without electricity. Trees took down power lines and damaged houses throughout the parish.
"It's the Ascension Parish way. We help people," said Sharon Morris, a volunteer helping out.
The Geismar distribution was organized by twins Thurman Thomas III and Torrence Thomas, who make their home in Austin, Texas, and Gonzales. The brothers attended school in Dutchtown. They founded Tankproof in 2012 to provide free swimming lessons for those who can't afford them. Over the years, the twins, who are musicians and businessmen, have expanded their nonprofit to provide services for people in need.
The brothers, accompanied by their mother Connie King, were busy Friday organizing volunteers from Dutchtown High, local businesses and other groups. Residents were able to pick up bottled water, baby supplies, snacks and other needed supplies. Diapers seemed to be the most-requested item.
Down the highway, volunteers with Alabama-based Here to Serve were packaging meals for hungry residents. The group found out about the need through a message posted on a Baton Rouge sports website. After a few messages and phone calls, Michael Anderson and five volunteers were packing up their cooking equipment and heading for Louisiana.
Here to Serve was started after hurricane Sally and helped last year in Lake Charles after Delta hit that city.
"We believe this is where God is leading us to come," Anderson said.
They arrived with 2,000 hamburger patties, 400 pounds of chicken breast and supplies needed to feed at least 500 people a day. They came with menus planned out.
"Helping is a southern thing. We help each other," Anderson said. He remembers when a tornado ripped though Tuscaloosa and people came from several states to help.
Here to Serve will be serving lunch and dinner at the church through Monday.
Fellowship Church volunteers provided meals to more than 100 people seeking shelter at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center for the first 72 hours after Ida hit. The Rev. Brian Robert, community impact pastor, said his church partners with Volunteer Ascension to coordinate where the need is greatest.
And, he said, the need is great, but so is the willingness to help out.
Around 11 a.m. Friday, Gary Smith, with Texas Baptist Men, was sitting in his group's command center parked at Ascension Baptist Church. Under several tents, volunteers were preparing 1,800 meals to be delivered by the Red Cross.
Smith, who has been working with the group for 29 years, said more than 80 volunteers from Texas drove to Gonzales to help out. The delegation brought cooking supplies, the command center, a charging station for cellphones and a shower trailer. They've been doing emergency relief for a while.
Texas Baptist Men were invited to Gonzales by Louisiana Baptist Convention Disaster Relief, part of the North American Mission Board that includes churches from more than 40 states.
In addition to the group's mission to provide meals to the American Red Cross to distribute across the area, crew with Texas Baptist Men are helping with tree and debris removal and the clearing of homes damaged in Ida's winds and rains.
This is the first big trip for the group's new command center, an air-conditioned trailer with computer stations, printers and all the tools needed to organize recovery efforts.
Smith was quick to explain why he left his family and headed to Gonzales: "Jesus asked us to." He said the Christian-based group's mission to "to give a cup of water in Jesus' name" to anyone in need.
Their goal is to provide up to 30,000 meals a day to the Red Cross. Smith and his band of volunteers said they were up to the task, but they could use some help. Anyone wishing to help prepare meals or perform needed tasks can show up at Ascension Baptist Church on Airline Highway. Training will be provided.