Cajun Army evolves from Cajun Navy to help flood victims

Everyone’s heard of the Cajun Navy – a group of people who were nicknamed that while they were spontaneously and individually using their own boats to travel to areas flooded by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and subsequent floods. But many of us are just learning about the Cajun Army which came together last summer.
Chris King, from Baton Rouge, and brothers Nick and Josh Loupe, from Morgan City, are three men who were part of the Cajun Navy which helped rescue people in southeast Louisiana during the flood of 2016. The three men made the precarious trip by boat up the Amite River as the floodwaters raged, with their destination Denham Springs. When they arrived, their mission to help people stranded by the flood became an 11-hour ordeal with countless rescues made.

Cajun Army members form Louisiana, Texas and other states across the country help Muck out, “gut” and treat homes to prevent mold and mildew.

Cajun Army members form Louisiana, Texas and other states across the country help Muck out, “gut” and treat homes to prevent mold and mildew.

“There was a tremendous current with many obstacles in the water, and several occasions where we should have lost the boat. I don’t know how we made it,” Nick Loupe admitted.
Even as they were pulling people from the flood and navigating the troubled waters, they couldn’t help but wonder what was going to happen to all these people who had just lost their homes and had their lives turned upsidedown. They knew there would be a great need for cleaning up the destruction, and they also knew they had to do something to help. Thus, one afternoon on a boat in the chaos of the flood, the idea for the Cajun Army was born.
As the floodwaters receded, the guys at first had no clear answer of what to do, only a desire to help their fellow Louisianans rebuild their lives. The men started calling friends and posting on Facebook looking for people willing to muck out and gut homes in the affected areas. People responded in droves – so many that it was quickly evident that a way was needed to organize them and get “boots on the ground” as quickly as possible.
They organized under the name of the Cajun Army and applied for and, in record time, received 501(c)(3) non-profit status and soon got to work in the Baton Rouge area.
“We gutted around 1,000 homes,” Nick Loupe said. “We’re still working this area more than a year after the flood, and now we’re also dealing with the aftermath of the beast of Hurricane Harvey in Texas.”
Hurricane Irma quickly followed Harvey and devastated much of Florida while the Cajun Army was busy cleaning up homes in the Houston Beaumont areas. The group decided it was more practical to stay where they were since the damage in southeast Texas is so great, and their resources could be better utilized closer to home.
It is notable that the Cajun Army relies on volunteers for their workforce and does not ask for money. Instead, if anyone offers to help, they ask for donations of supplies, referring them to go to their website www.thecajunarmy.com and click on “Texas Wish List” which takes them to a special Amazon site where they can select items from their wish list of needed supplies. The purchased items will be shipped directly to their warehouses in Texas.

“We gutted around 1,000 homes,” Nick Loupe said. “We’re still working this area more than a year after the flood, and now we’re also dealing with the aftermath of the beast of Hurricane Harvey in Texas.”
They’re also looking for more helpers. Anyone interested in being part of healing in some shape or form after a disaster can volunteer as an onsite worker or even just share a Facebook post or help with administrative chores.

A volunteer mucks out a home in Texas flooded by Hurricane Harvey over several days between Aug. 25-Sept. 3, 2017.

A volunteer mucks out a home in Texas flooded by Hurricane Harvey over several days between Aug. 25-Sept. 3, 2017.

“But I really don’t like to say ‘just’ send a Facebook post, because every effort is important. Every post someone sends about the Cajun Army will get forwarded to others, and each post has the potential to find someone who will volunteer as a worker or to buy supplies,” said Loupe, “or will reach someone who needs help and doesn’t know where to turn.”
They need skilled workers such as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, etc., as well as laborers to demo and clear out the interior of houses. Also, cooks, food servers, people who know who to use computers and spreadsheets are needed, as well as helpers in many other capacities.
Loupe tells volunteers no matter how little time they have or how limited their skills, there is always something they can do.
“If you don’t have time now but may in a few weeks, or few months, we can still use you,” he said. “I feel we will still be here in Texas maybe even next year because the flooding was so widespread, and there are so many homes that were damaged.
Anyone who would like to volunteer should go to the Cajun Army website and click on “Volunteer” to register. Someone checks the website each night and contacts people within one or two days. They discuss exactly what the volunteers will be doing so there will be no surprises.”
Each work site has an experienced coordinator to oversee the work crews. Tools and protective clothing and masks are provided to all workers, although if a volunteer has tools their own tools, they are encouraged to bring them along.

Details:

Details: Cajun Army email: infor@thecajunarmy.com; visit website: www.thecajunarmy, to register to volunteer or request help; Facebook: The Cajun Army.
People can also volunteer to provide housing and feed the workers; just click the “Offer Housing” button on the website.
The Cajun Army currently has three command posts in Texas: at Pasadena south of Houston; Magnolia, northwest of Houston; and at Port Neches near Port Arthur. They are also in the Lake Charles area to help fellow Louisianians who were also hit by Hurricane Harvey.

Cajun Army volunteers painted a sign on material torn out of a flooded home in Texas.

Cajun Army volunteers painted a sign on material torn out of a flooded home in Texas.

The command posts cooridnate volunteers and work crews and also house and feed volunteers. Most often these locations are churches who offer their facilities.
The group gets word on who needs help through their website. If you or anyone you know lives in a flooded area and needs a house gutted, the owner needs to go to the website and click “Request Help.” Loupe always tells people, “Don’t register with just us, though; register with all aid groups and see who can get to you first.”
Anyone can see what they are doing by following them on Facebook; it’s updated every day.
Loupe noted that the Cajun Army name is copyrighted and trademarked, and they do not tolerate any misuses of their name.
“We don’t want our reputation ruined by imposters,” said Loupe. “There are legitimate organizations that solicit cash donations, but we do not. If you hear from anyone that’s trying to raise money in the name of the Cajun Army, you know its fraud because we never ask for money.”
Contact the Cajun Army via email or through their website or Facebook page, and an administrator will respond quickly.
“All we are here for is to love our neighbors and serve them in their time of need. We just need a little help to be able to help more people.”

 

By Helen Wale Turner