Volunteers help repair damage in aftermath of Hurricane Laura


LAKE CHARLES, La. (NewsNation) — Louisiana homeowners are cleaning up their neighborhoods after Hurricane Laura barreled through towns along the U.S. Gulf Coast, but they’re not at it alone. Crews from across the country have been deployed, and many say they’re not stopping until they run out of daylight and resources.

“As we put our heads down on our pillows at night, there is a sense of just knowing that we’re doing all that we can do at this point,” said Joey Stoltzfus, with Hope Force.

The faith-based response team hits the road when disaster strikes, and Hope Force volunteers traveled to Lake Charles to patch up damage in the aftermath of the hurricane.

“Of course, there’s a lot of tree damage, but there’s a tremendous amount of roof damage here,” Stoltzfus said. “Everything from just a few shingles to a lot of singles to entire roofs just peeled off of homes.”

Christi Austin, 61, lives in one of those homes, and she decided to ride out the storm.

“Nobody else was in the neighborhood at the time but me, because I was the only one still at home,” Austin said, laughing.

At the height of the Category 4 hurricane, Austin said she clutched onto her four dogs and a Bible, and prayed.

By morning, streets, homes, businesses and power lines across the city were destroyed. But volunteers are helping put the town back on track.

“Nothing is more meaningful than when someone just comes alongside you and helps you with the basic things,” Stoltzfus said.

Stoltzfus added, “We’re responding out of a deep responsive joy that we have in our own hearts.”

Austin said she’s just thankful for a little light in a year burdened by darkness.

“We’re dead at the bottom of the well, with the COVID and then the storm. There’s no money. Everything’s closed,” she said.

Hope Force isn’t the only organization involved in recovery efforts after the storm. The National Guard, emergency management teams and countless other groups are offering everything from home repairs to bottled water deliveries. Roughly 17,000 linemen are helping bring power back to the thousands of homes still in the dark in Louisiana.

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