Henry residents assisting flood victims in Louisiana

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Danny Fussell of Central, La., spoke with a sense of helplessness in the wake of recent flooding that decimated his home. He has lived in his home for 22 years and said the damage caused by the floods is worse than anything he’s ever seen.

Volunteers from McDonough, Hampton and Locust Grove teamed up last week to load a convoy with water and supplies bound for Louisiana. Photo by Nick Vassy

“My whole house was gutted, man,” he said. “The hardest part, for me, is not being able to do anything about it. I’ve got about two and half feet of water in the whole house. We’ve never had anything like this before -- not even close.”

Central is located about 20 miles north of Baton Rouge. Fussell, who works in law enforcement and airport rescue at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, expressed gratitude for people across the country who have helped rescue his city and surrounding areas -- including a team of volunteers from Henry County.

“The way people here have stepped up is just incredible,” said Fussell. “It’s just overwhelming, what’s happened in this part of the country. It lets you know there’s still good people who want to take care of each other.”

Fifteen volunteers from McDonough, Hampton and Locust Grove teamed up last week to take water and supplies to Louisiana to support relief efforts in the wake of the floods. McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland spearheaded the endeavor and said the group concentrated on Central, where the damage has been extensive.

“It seemed to be the worst hit,” said Copeland. “There are 9,000 homes in Central, La., and 93 percent of them are destroyed.”

He said the first thing he did was to contact his counterpart in Central, Mayor Junior Shelton.

“I talked to the mayor and he was so excited,” said Copeland. “He said, ‘We need manual labor and we need water.’”

The Associated Press reports that the flooding brought two feet of rain over two days in some areas, and resulted in 13 deaths. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards estimated that the floods damaged more than 100,000 homes, and more than 119,000 households, subsequently registered for federal aid, according to the AP.

Mayor Copeland said he is grateful for those who volunteered to go to Louisiana to be part of the relief effort.

“I hope we can do something for them and that they’ll receive a reward for spending their time there,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll make a difference.”

Hampton Mayor Steve Hutchison was one of the first people to sign on to the local relief project, sending four public-works employees to Central, La., along with a trailer packed with water. He said he was glad when Copeland proposed the humanitarian effort to him, because he had wanted to do something similar when the news of the floods broke.

“It was meant to be that we were both discussing the same thing at the same time,” said Hutchison. “We’re all neighbors, and we have to help each other out.”

Hutchison said the “devastating” floods rendered 25,000 people without homes in Central, La., and in need of shelter. Upon hearing this, he started seeking for the relief effort from the Hampton community.

“I went to all our surrounding schools … and asked them to participate also, and all of them were 100 percent open to the idea of helping to send water to Louisiana,” said Hutchison. “I contacted all my council members, and they are all 110 percent behind me on supporting this.”

Locust Grove sent a pair of workers and 78 cases of water as part of relief effort, said City Manager Tim Young. He added that his city assisted with relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina, as well as a tsunami that hit Sri Lanka in December of 2004.

“It’s good to help out people whenever you can,” said Young. “I applaud everyone who’s willing to help out those who have been affected during this horrible event. “You never know when you might need it down the road.”