After Hurricane Laura’s devastating landfall through western Louisiana, Liberty, Texas-based First Liberty National Bank organized a supply drive to help employees of Iberia Bank and other residents in Lake Charles, La.
“One of our mortgage lenders, Suzanne Reed, has a son, Will, who runs the Iberia Bank. He lost his house in the storm. Only 2 to 3 of the bank’s six branches did not sustain major damage,” said Keri Elliott, a spokesperson for FLNB. “On Monday, we hit the ground running and started collecting items to help the storm victims. We opened it up to our customers who generously donated items, such as hygiene products, food, chain saws and water.”
With all the items collected and three trailers loaded, bank employees set out on Thursday for a quick trip to Louisiana. The goal was to prepare lunch for bank employees, drop off the items and offer some encouragement before heading home.
“The devastation between here and there is so bad. The tops of trees are just twisted off. There are houses that are completely leveled. When we got to Lake Charles, there were no stop lights or street signs, so driving was a little bit challenging,” Elliott said. “We took a caravan of vehicles – a cook trailer, snow cone trailer and cargo trailer, which were all full of supplies. When we got there, the nine FLNB employees who made the trip began unloading items, cutting up food and cooking.”
Very quickly, word began to spread among locals in the area that hot food plates of fried catfish, French fries, hush puppies and cole slaw were being offered in the Iberia Bank parking lot. For four hours, FLNB employees served up plates of food for more than 150 people, some trays going to feed entire families.
“The people there are struggling. Out of everyone we talked to, only a handful didn’t have major damage to their homes. Most are waiting on insurance and many are camping outside their homes because they have nowhere else to go,” Elliott said. “They were in high spirits, the ones we talked to, and were working hard to get things going again. They are just country people doing their best to get through this.”
According to Elliott, projections being given to Iberia Bank reps is that power may be out for at least a month, so the recovery will be prolonged and difficult as the storm hit in the hot summer months.
While FLNB’s help may have been a drop in the bucket of what will be needed to help the area recover, Elliott said she is proud that the bank and its customers took the initiative to help.
“I am proud of the work of the bank. Not only is FLNB community-minded, we saw a need and did our best to try and fill it,” said Elliott, crediting Bank President Kelly Stretcher and the FLNB board of directors.
Elliott also thanked PELCO for donating a generator to Louisiana storm victims.
“Between employees, we raised roughly $2,000 in cash to distribute to storm victims in Lake Charles,” she said.