Louisiana Co-op Kids Help Collect Donations, Supplies for Hurricane Recovery

Hurricane Laura left extensive damage to Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative territory in 2020. Now, the co-op is raising money and supplies to donate to the Hurricane Ida recovery effort. (Photo Courtesy: Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative)

The children of Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative employees, who know all too well what it’s like when a devastating hurricane hits your community, stepped up over Labor Day weekend to collect money and supplies to help people across their state restoring power and trying to recover from Hurricane Ida.

“My son Nicholas and the kids did the same thing to help us out last year after Hurricane Laura, when line crews in our tent city had a hard time finding toiletries, snacks and other supplies because stores were closed and out of power,” said Heath Lemieux, line superintendent for the Jennings, Louisiana-based co-op. “After they got everything the crews could use, they just started donating stuff to people who needed it in the community.”

Addie Armato, acting CEO of the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives, had been hearing reports of hard-to-find items from the co-op-run line camps throughout the past week, such as soap and shower gel, pocket snacks and other items crews would normally pick up locally.

Armato reached out to Lemieux’s wife, Laci, the former office manager for Jeff Davis EC, about holding the drive again for fellow Louisiana co-ops.

“I started at the co-op as a receptionist and over the years, I worked a lot of storms, so I know how important family and community support can be during long restoration periods,” Laci Lemieux said.

Nicholas Lemieux, 10, knows Jeff Davis crews are among the mutual aid personnel helping co-ops hit by Ida, and he was happy to help his mom organize the drive.

All it took was a few phone calls to current Jeff Davis EC staff and promotion of the afternoon donation drive by word of mouth and social media. The collection site, run by the sons and daughters of co-op staff and their friends, had a busy afternoon.

“We collected about $1,200 cash and thousands of toiletry items, lots of cleaning supplies and some snacks that are hard to find right now,” Laci Lemieux said Saturday. “We collected more than enough donations to fill a pickup truck and immediately sent it east to the affected co-ops.”

The toiletries and other personal items will be used by appreciative visiting crews, and other supplies were distributed to families dealing with storm-damaged homes in hard-hit communities.

Pulling together helps to lighten the burden when major disasters occur, said Jeff Davis EC General Manager Mike Heinen.

“They helped us last year, so we are more than happy to pitch in, and what’s great about this quick effort was our employees and members also thought about the people in those communities,” he said. “We all know firsthand what’s needed to start the long recovery after a major storm.”

Derrill Holly is a staff writer for NRECA.