After Hurricane Ida, Recovering from Tumult

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The houses were uninhabited and the groups had to accommodate services. When called to act, one person said: “It’s always satisfying when you’re helping people, especially when it’s the people you live around.

Power went out at Mamie Jackson’s home on Sunday afternoon when Hurricane Ida moved into Louisiana. Then it rained, and when Ms. Jackson realized the ceiling of her bedroom was leaking, she placed a bucket under the leak. The next thing she knew, her roof was falling.

“We went downstairs and just started listening and destruction is happening,” Ms. Jackson said.

She and her husband moved into the only room in their home in Kenner, LA, about 15 miles from New Orleans, that wasn’t leaking. They listened as several other roofs fell, a tree came down and the patio “bloomed”.

For Ms Jackson, 57, feeling helpless is unusual. As a retired supply sergeant in the US Army, Ms. Jackson eventually took her skills to Second Harvest, a food pantry in New Orleans operated by Feeding America, which is supported by The New York Times Neediest Case Fund. As Director of Operations, Ms. Jackson developed a no-nonsense reputation, and her work ethic earned her the nickname “General Jackson” among her staff members.

But in all her years of serving and helping in times of destruction, Ms. Jackson had never experienced damage to her personal property as she did during Hurricane Ida. “It was a new experience,” she said. “It was amazing to me to see my house fall all around me.”

Ms Jackson went on to live with the family before moving to a hotel where she and her husband are still staying. But two days after her house was nearly destroyed, it was time to go back to work.

She and her team at Second Harvest have gone through a few storms over the past year, as well as dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout. So when the storm hit the region on September 5, “we knew what we had to do,” she said.

The storm damaged floors and skylights at Second Harvest’s warehouse, and a fallen power cord blocked one of their truck routes. But Ms. Jackson and her crew reported back to work on Tuesday, September 7 and started doing what they did best: loading the truck with fresh water, ice and food.

Ms Jackson said it was a relief to get up and go to work.

“We are here to help people,” she said. “We’re here to do a thing that isn’t the most glamorous thing in the world, but has the most pride attached to it.”

His house was yet to be talked about. When she returned for the first time after the storm had subsided, Ms. Jackson fell to her knees in tears.

Three weeks after the storm hit, an insurance adjuster said most of the walls in his house would have to come down on studs. Since then, she’s been returning to the home where she raised her three children, trying to salvage items like her prized record collection.

Ms. Jackson was displaced from her home for three months after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. So when residents are involved in food delivery programs, they know what it’s like to be in that line.

“When you’re coming through with a line, is it embarrassing? Yes. But do you need to? Yeah,” she said. “We don’t let anyone down because you never know what their situation might be can.”

The Neediest Cases Fund is also supporting eight other organizations in its 2021-22 campaign, which started recently. Kevin Roose, a technology columnist for The Times, made a major contribution to the auction of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, in a column in March. The proceeds were pledged to The Fund by The New York Times Company.

“I thought we could raise a few hundred dollars for a good cause,” said Mr. Rouge.

He was blown away by the result: NFTs sold for 350 ether, the cryptocurrency used for auction, or about half a million dollars. Over the next several months, the price of the cryptocurrency increased, and the value of the winning bid increased to $1.1 million. That donation was recently channeled into The Fund’s 2021-22 campaign.

“This was only possible because readers and fans of The Times wanted to support the newspaper and its mission,” he said.

One of the organizations supported by The Fund is World Central Kitchen. For Edmund Jackson, 55, it was a lifeline after the storm. And he turned his misfortune into an opportunity to help others after Ida. He started working as a dishwasher and prep cook at a restaurant in New Orleans when the storm struck.

The restaurant is closed. Mr. Jackson was out of work – and out of power. She told a chef at the restaurant that her food supply was running low. That’s when he joined World Central Kitchens, which deploys pop-up food kitchens in disaster areas around the world and is backed by the fund. So far, they have served 460,000 meals in the area.

“I knew I would be fine. I didn’t know that I would help people – that part was the good part,” he said.

Mr. Jackson (who is not related to Ms. Jackson) was hired from the New Orleans Culinary Institute to work on an assembly line that put together hot meals. He helped secure the trays of food to the heated transport units, and he did it with speed.

“In a way, it seemed normal,” he said. “It’s always satisfying when you’re helping people, especially when it’s the people around you.”

Mr. Jackson, who moved to New Orleans to help with the recovery efforts after Katrina, worked with World Central Kitchen for a month straight. He had a few days off, and now he is back to his regular work.

As Ida moved out of Louisiana, the storm triggered torrential rains that also affected New York City.

Several basements filled with water, including the lower level offices of the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless, a work force development program located in Long Island City, Queens. The group, which is supported by the Community Service Society, a beneficiary of the fund, uses the office space for adult education, computer training, mock interviews and counseling.

The office was flooded by about two feet due to the storm. The association trains approximately 220 clients each year, and supports upwards of 600, but without an office home base, most of the programming is on hold.

“Our space was designed for them,” said executive director James Martin. “Our people get real personal attention, and it’s effective.”

He worries that personal time constraints mean some customers are falling through the cracks. But the group is doubling down on customers in the meantime, and expects the space to reopen by the end of this month.

“We are fighters here,” said Mr. Martin. “That’s what we preach and what we do.”

Donations to The Neediest Case Fund can be made online or with a check.

Sarah Eridic Contributed to reporting.

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