All ‘Hands’ on deck: Volunteer visitors help clean up

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 16, 2016

Tashica Taylor, her husband and their three children no longer live at their home at 1008 Jackson St.

Like so many homes in the area, it flooded in the March 11 storm. In some places, Taylor said the water reached 4.5 feet. Since the flood, Taylor said she and her family haven’t been able to live in their home.

“We’re at my mother-in-law’s,” she said.

Taylor applied for help with FEMA, but their claim was denied.

“We have insurance, so they denied the claim,” Taylor explained. “But insurance doesn’t cover everything. So we’re appealing.”

And in the meantime, she is ripping apart her damaged home and piling it on the curb outside.

But she is not alone. On Friday, she was joined by a handful of volunteers with All Hands Volunteers, a national nonprofit group that sends volunteers anywhere on earth they’re needed. The volunteers offer a variety of services, but most frequently they’re the cleanup crew after natural disasters.

Brandon Baird, field logistics operator for the Bogalusa group, said his volunteers have been based in Bogalusa for one month. He said in that time they’ve gutted over 100 homes.

He said the group will remain in town until May, although that deadline might get extended.

“If we can secure more funding and more volunteers, then we’ll stay longer,” Baird said. “We do see the need of staying longer but it’s all about the volunteers and funding.”

Baird said volunteers aren’t committed to a timeframe, and if Bogalusa wants the group to stay, anyone can pitch in and help.

“So, the only thing we need from the volunteers is their willingness to work,” he said. “No skills necessary. We’ll train them and teach them how to work. If they just want to come for the day, they can come for the day.

The group is based in the gym at the ESM United Methodist Church, and he said the space can fit a few more volunteers.

“If they want to come for the week, they can stay for the week,” he said. “This is the housing here, and we feed and house our volunteers.”

He said the volunteer crews work from Tuesday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

If residents would like to help in other ways, Baird said the group accepts donations through their website,

“They can donate strictly to project Louisiana,” he said. “They need to go to and click on ‘active projects’ and pick project Louisiana.”

The group is also working in St. Tammany Parish. In addition, Baird said his group takes donations.

“We can always use donations of contractor bags, work gloves, safety goggles or donate a meal to us. The biggest part of our budget is our meals,” he said.

Peter Cavadini, the director of U.S. Recovery and Rebuild, said he also wanted to acknowledge the generosity of ESM United Methodist Church.

“I just want to make sure we acknowledge ESM,” he said. “They’ve been very supportive of us. They’re feeding us, they’re letting us stay here and using this facility has allowed us to do the work were doing.”

If anyone would like to get involved with the group, Baird asks that they call 985-605-4908. Also, if anyone would like to have a house added to their list, homeowners may call the same number.

Baird said the group will help anyone who asks.

“We’re helping anyone, there’s no application for us to come help you,” he said. “But our priority is the elderly and the disabled.”