The timing was perfect.
Three 18-wheelers, two trailers and vans loaded with cleanup supplies collected through One Coast/One Relief arrived in Baton Rouge on Wednesday morning — just as flood waters receded from highways and residents were able to start drying out their houses.
Church groups and nonprofit organizations notified ahead of time were there to greet the caravan that had set out from Gulfport.
Mississippi Coast residents have “been there done that, so they know what people are going through,” said Jared Loftus, a native Mississippian and businessman who moved to Baton Rouge 12 years ago. “You can tell by what we’re unloading.”
Coast residents sent plenty of cleaning supplies, bottled water, pet food and other post-flood necessities. The first stop was a parking lot large enough for the 18-wheelers at Performance Contractors, owned by former Gulfport resident Art Favre.
Volunteer relief groups formed an assembly line to unload supplies, said Chris Vignes, a city of Gulfport spokesman who helped organize One Coast/One Relief with mayor’s assistant Rebecca Kajdan and Paula Hewes, wife of Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes. Paula Hewes’ brothers had flooding in their Baton Rouge homes.
Jonathan Taylor of Life Church in Walker, La., in hard-hit Livingston Parish picked up cleaning supplies, buckets and mops to take to his church for distribution. Other churches and groups also picked up supplies in bulk to hand out. Taylor said 70 percent of the parish flooded, with 50,000 residents affected.
His church is feeding 400 to 500 people a day.
Loftus said, “I know people that packed up stuff who are probably in their houses right now cleaning up, because of the things they could get here.
“Thank you, Mississippi Coast. Everything I’ve ever told people about home, we’re seeing in action right now.”
The Coast responded in a big way to the call for help because so many residents remember the volunteers who poured in after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in 2005.
Gollott & Sons Transfer & Storage donated an 18-wheeler, then another when the first filled. Vignes said he called John Fayard Moving and Warehousing for a third truck. The city of D’Iberville also was filling at least one 18-wheeler.
Coast localities participating in One Coast/One Relief include Jackson County, Pascagoula, Gautier, D’Iberville, Long Beach and Gulfport.
Billy Hewes, who joined the caravan with his wife, said on his way back to Gulfport, “It was the absolute right thing for us to do.”