Helping hands: Arkansas students assist victims

Published 7:09 am Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Ruth Lewis has lived in her home on Lincoln Street for 34 years, and in that time, her home has never flooded as badly as it did two weeks ago.

In the early morning hours of March 11, Lewis said something startled her awake. When she noticed it was still raining, after a night of raining, she checked the creek across the street.

The water was coming up her driveway.

Lewis said she and a grandson took maybe 10 minutes to get dressed, but by the time they were up and out, climbing to higher ground, the water had risen several feet.

“I could barely pull through the water,” Lewis said.

Now, two weeks later, most of what was inside her house, an entertainment center, mattresses, chairs, cushions — all of it lies piled on the street corner out in front of her house. Lewis has been helped by her son, Oscar Lewis, who is a retired military member living in Texas, and on Tuesday she also got a small team of volunteer college students from Arkansas who are in town on their spring break helping residents clean out their homes.

Elizabeth O’Brien, an intern with Chi Alpha Chi Campus Ministries out of Conway, Ark., said they planned a trip to New Orleans to volunteer, but changed their itinerary when they heard about the need in Bogalusa.

“This trip has been planned for months, but the church obviously didn’t know there would be a flood,” O’Brien said. “It’s a tragedy, but we’re happy to be somewhere where we’re needed.”

Chi Alpha Chi is working through the Greater Ebenezer Church, which is sending small teams of volunteers to various homes in the area.

Lewis said she’s grateful for the help. Lewis said she has spoken with FEMA representatives, but they haven’t been by her home yet to assess the damages.

Lewis said she has no idea what the amount of all her damages might be.

“I couldn’t very well say,” she said. “It’s just everything.”

Her son is remaining optimistic in the face of the total loss.

“I hope they get her back on her feet, very much so,” Oscar said.

Oscar said he was raised in Bogalusa, and he said he’s happy to see the town — and visitors — working together after the flood. He praised two city workers, Josh Crosby and Adam Riles who returned a valuable watch and jewelry box mistakenly thrown away with a pile of refuse.

Oscar said the city workers were checking piles to make sure there was no hazardous waste included in the refuse when they came upon the watch and jewelry box.

After losing most everything else, Lewis said she was happy to get the watch and the jewelry back.

Marilyn Lott with the Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church said the church is open if anyone needs help with FEMA paperwork. The church is at 1104 Poplas St. and their hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.