By: Greg Ferrara
Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs, NGA
The Great Flood of 2016 devastated more than 20 parishes in Louisiana, inundating thousands of houses, local businesses, churches, and more with putrid flood waters. While the flood waters washed away homes and memories, it also brought out the best in communities, including tremendous support from the independent grocer community.
Supporting their local communities is just what independent grocers do each and every day. When asked for help, not one independent supermarket operator gave a second thought to stepping up during this natural disaster.
As the flood waters inundated communities around their stores in Gonzales and Baton Rouge, Ronnie Trosclair of Ralph’s Market and his family knew evacuees and rescuers would need to be fed and that is just what they did, serving hot jambalaya to anyone who needed a meal, as well as sandwiches, snacks, and water to first responders. Carlton Main, Main’s Market in Folsom, also knew how important a hot meal was and brought his cooker into the affected area to set-up a food station for evacuees and volunteers.
Grocers didn’t just feed and supply their communities, but some even joined in the rescue effort. Ronnie Trosclair son, Dustin, was part of the “Cajun Navy,” private citizens who rescued people in their own boats before first responders could reach the affected areas. Together, the Cajun Navy helped to rescue 38 families using an air boat.
Champagne’s Market in Lafayette, LA stepped up with a $10,000 donation to the local United Way of Acadiana to support the relief effort, while Calandro’s Supermarket in Baton Rouge strongly supported a local fundraiser, entitled “Under the Overpass,” to help flood victims.
Rouses Supermarket, which lost a store in Denham Springs to the flood waters, provided donations to local churches and relief organizations, while also working to open a new store in Baton Rouge. Rouses is committed to getting the flooded store in Denham Springs repaired and reopened as quickly as possible.
LeBlancs Food Stores, in Gonzales was recognized by the Louisiana Army National Guard for their support to the 199th Brigade Support Battalion and 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
After Hurricane Katrina destroyed their store and homes in the Buras, LA area in 2005, the Sumich family moved to Central, located just north of Baton Rouge and ultimately opened Oak Point Fresh Markets. During the floods, John Sumich and his employees used their store in Watson to supply Live Oak United Methodist Church, which was serving as a shelter, with food and other supplies for the evacuees. When his community was in need John didn’t think twice about throwing open his back door to take care of his neighbors.
This generosity and service hasn’t been limited to the immediate area. Reggie McDaniel of Mac’s Markets in Monroe donated ten pallets of food and cleaning supplies, and Associated Wholesale Grocers Board member Danny Boyle was one of the first to call with a donation of cleaning supplies. Affiliated Foods in Amarillo donated a truckload of bleach, while Brookshire Grocery Company donated multiple truckloads of water and supplies to the Lafayette area, and the list of examples goes on.
Jay Campbell, Executive Chairman, Associated Grocers, Inc. moved quickly to ensure the food industry understood the severity of the situation and how to send aid through an ad hoc public relations campaign that consisted of constant email updates with new information to his industry colleagues and trade publications.
Bob Durand, senior vice president of Associated Wholesale Grocers Gulf Coast Division, said it best “The full list of independent grocers committed to supporting their communities and the communities around them is too numerous to list, but the dedication to serve and help is all around us. Independent grocers are rooted and vested in their communities and pull together in times of tragedy.” #GrocersCare
If you would like to help with the recovery effort, consider these organizations below:
Baton Rouge Area Foundation: braf.org (225-387-6126)
Capital Area United Way: www.cauw.org ( 225-383-2643)
American Red Cross – Baton Rouge/Louisiana Chapter: www.redcross.org/local/louisiana/local-chapter/Louisiana-Capital-Area-West
Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank: brfoodbank.org (225-359-9940)
Society of St. Vincent DePaul: www.svdpbr.com (225-383-7837 ext. # 205)
Catholic Charities – Diocese of Baton Rouge: diobr.org (225-924-3900)
In the video below, Donny Rouse or Rouse’s Market walks through the Denham Springs market after the historic flooding in South Louisiana in August 2016.