Coast helps Baton Rouge flood survivors ‘out of love’

The Coast is stepping up with donations large and small for Baton Rouge residents flooded out of their homes.

One man dropped off two six-packs of toilet paper and a gallon of bottled water Monday afternoon at Gulfport city hall. City spokesman Chris Vignes said he didn’t catch the man’s name but was impressed that he gave what he could.

The man said he decided to do something good Monday instead of driving to Louisiana for Powerball tickets because it would have been his deceased mother’s birthday.

“It’s just been unbelievable,” Vignes said.

The coordinated relief effort started Friday as water rose in Baton Rouge. Gulfport first lady Paula Hewes told Vignes, “We have to do something.” Hewes, a Gulfport native and hurricane survivor, always finds ways to help after a disaster.

Vignes turned to mayor’s assistant Rebecca Kajdan, the queen of organizers. The two cooked up One Coast One relief Saturday in Kajdan’s kitchen.

Vignes posted about One Coast One Relief on the city of Gulfport’s Facebook page. He challenged other Coast localities to step up. The post has reached more than 65,000 people and been shared more than 1,000 times. Residents and businesses have responded in droves, dropping off cases of bleach, bottled water, cleaning supplies, pet food, gift cards and other items.

Donations can be dropped off until 6 p.m. Tuesday at all the city’s fire stations and City Hall. The donations will be delivered Wednesday.

“It just reinforces to me the kindness of mankind,” said Kajdan, who will never forget the assistance volunteers offered Coast residents after Hurricane Katrina. “We would not be where we are today without strangers just showing up to help us.”

Pascagoula, Gautier, D’Iberville and Jackson County have all joined One Coast One Relief.

The West End Hose Co. No. 3 in Biloxi, better known as the Biloxi Fire Museum, has reactivated its GoFundMe page online to raise money for a trip next week to Independence, Louisiana, where team members will help clean up flooded homes. Fire Chief Joe Boney said the money will feed the team of five to nine and rent heavy equipment for cleanup.

Other Coast residents have already made their way to Baton Rouge.

David Dickensauge, chef extraordinaire at Corks & Cleaver in downtown Gulfport, had no time to talk when the Sun Herald reached him at 11:43 a.m. Monday.

“We’re in Baton Rouge,” he said. “We’re feeding about 4,000 people right now.”

So many businesses and individuals have stepped up, it is hard to start naming names. Gary Gollott of Gollott Moving & Storage has donated a truck the city will use Wednesday to deliver donations. Paula Hewes is driving her own truck. She always ends up visiting disaster survivors, plus she has two brothers in Baton Rouge, one whose home flooded.

Gulfport’s Swift Boat rescue team has been in Baton Rouge since Saturday. Lt. Blake Smith, Lt. Chad Bryant and engineers Chad Asher and Tim Ishee have rescued hundreds of residents from apartment complexes, nursing homes and houses, Fire Chief Mike Beyerstedt said.

Gloria Byrd, office manager in the city’s legal department, eloquently summed up relief efforts:

“During Katrina, we received. Life was just different because people gave from their hearts. We owe it to them not out of duty but out of love.”

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99