The irony of Hurricane Isaac’s making landfall on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is not lost on the southeast Louisiana community.
Pastor Kenny Flaming and his family are no strangers to such tragedies as hurricanes. When Katrina made landfall upon the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005, they saw no real damage to their home; they didn’t even evacuate for the storm. Kenny and his wife Tammy stayed behind to help their church and community.
Their family lived in Covington at the time and stayed for the duration of Hurricane Katrina. She and two of her sisters, Rachel and Katie, left afterwards for California where they stayed with their grandparents for almost a month. “My parents were so busy helping everybody else, it was best for us to leave,” says daughter Kendra.
This was when Kenny was the pastor for Wardline Church of God on Million Dollar Road in Covington. Seven years later, he presides as pastor to the Cornerstone Church of God in Plaquemines Parish; more specifically, Braithwaite, which saw extreme flooding when the levees overtopped early on in Hurricane Isaac’s path.
Helping to rebuild the lives of their neighbors and community members is a situation they find themselves facing once more, even if this time they are the ones in need.
Their home is the parsonage for Cornerstone Church of God, where Pastor Flaming has worked for over a year.
“They were expecting to get some water because they are on the wrong side of the flood wall, but it was a category one storm, so they didn’t expect 15 feet. They moved some things in the attic, but there’s not much you can do,” says Kendra.
When water overtopped the levees in Plaquemines Parish, deep in south Louisiana, it was a matter of hours before residents like Flaming and his family knew that they had lost everything.
As of Tuesday, the community of Braithwaite was still flooded under two and a half feet of water. Residents hope to be able to return to their homes in order to assess damage by the weekend.
“You need a mudboat or pirogue to get into the neighborhood still,” says Kendra.
Operation Compassion has provided the Flaming family with a trailer to live in while they undergo the process of recovery.
Actual members of the congregation did not see much damage; the Flamings are focusing right now on helping people of the Braithwaite community and their neighborhood, Braithwaite Park, some of which are rebuilding for the second time in less than a decade.
God’s Pit Crew, a non-profit, faith-based group, is helping Pastor Kenny to aid hurricane victims in the community, many of whom have lost everything, including their homes. The crew left early Thursday morning en route to Louisiana carrying more than 100,000 pounds of supplies for families in need, like bottled water and personal hygiene products. They also brought some heavier machinery, to help with debris removal, cleanup and repairs.
Pastor Kenny says the number one need in the community is clothes. “Once they have clothes, that will change. All the kids are going to go back to school and they will need school supplies and school clothes,” says Kendra.
Also, Pastor Flaming says the people in the community are in dire need of monetary donations and gift cards to stores like Target, Walmart and CVS, to get the necessities they need in order to start living life normally again.
Pastor Kenny’s church sustained some wind damage, but no water damage and is currently open to house any and all supplies available to people in need.
Pastor Kenny has already returned to his home by boat. He posted a video to YouTube of the damage caused in his neighborhood. After acknowledging where the water line most likely rose to, he says, “That gives us some hope that the things we put in the attic are safe.”
“Hopefully a lot of people decide to move after this,” says Kendra. “I’d rather they live over here on the Northshore where there’s less chance of flooding. They definitely need better reinforcing and better planning down there. There are still a lot of things that need improving since Katrina.”
She does feel, however, that the states and cities along the Gulf Coast were better prepared. She says, “It doesn’t feel as panicked. But before, during Katrina, I was a freshman in high school, and my parents were out of town, so I wasn’t watching the news. They came home and told us there was a hurricane coming. I knew about Isaac almost a week in advance.”
Kendra set up an online donation at Wepay.com, and has already raised close to $800 from those donations alone; this does not include personal donations to the family and collections from other church communities.
Kendra says her parents will stay with the community and their church, but most likely will not reside in Plaquemines Parish.
“Their plan is to help. Their focus is on the community and helping those who have lost everything twice,” she says of her parents. “They’re definitely not focused on themselves.”