By Ryann Denham, Executive Director, City Year Baton Rouge
August has brought tremendous challenges to the state of Louisiana in the form of devastating floods, and thousands of residents here are experiencing profound loss.
However, we have also witnessed the strong sense of community and resilience of the Baton Rouge region and are feeling thankful for the tremendous recovery efforts that are underway and our ability to participate in them.
As you may know, Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency for the entire state on Aug. 12, and two days later, the federal government declared a major disaster for Louisiana, setting in motion the availability of several types of assistance for residents in East Baton Rouge Parish and more than 20 surrounding parishes. We at City Year Baton Rouge are happy to report that all of our staff and AmeriCorps Members are safe and accounted for. However, due to the flooding, corps members, staff, school communities and our students are left facing an unimaginable amount of damage and loss.
City Year Baton Rouge has been deploying our corps members in numerous ways to meet the needs of the community and our partner organizations. We have been leading and staffing donation centers, partnering with the Arts Council of Baton Rouge to support Arts Education Sessions in shelters housing displaced students and their families, and painting facilities that will house First Responders. Additionally, AmeriCorps members have been supporting school partners in outreach and phone calls home to check on the status of students and their families. City Year Baton Rouge has also opened its doors to the Democracy Prep Public School staff, as their building has suffered severe damage. AmeriCorps members and staff on hand have been helping them sort through donations that arrive at the office as well. Democracy Prep will remain headquartered out of City Year Baton Rouge over the next few weeks until they can return to their facility.
In addition to physical service, City Year Baton Rouge has been working to meet the immediate needs and secure necessities for families that have been directly affected by the flooding. We are raising money for relief efforts, and these funds will be used to provide clothing, linens, food and other household items. Funds will also be used to provide school supplies and uniforms for our students and school staff who were affected by the floods. The remainder will be directed towards the ongoing physical and human service in impacted schools for many months to come. If anyone is interested in contributing to these relief efforts, please click here.
City Year Baton Rouge also stands ready to answer the call to serve our schools again. Celerity Schools and Kenilworth Science and Technology School opened their doors on August 22 to students, and our East Baton Rouge Parish Public school partners have begun working with staff. Students will resume classes on Tuesday, September 6. Also, Democracy Prep Public School has opened a makeshift school for its students. All school teams are on hand to support their schools and students as they rebuild, restart and prepare to welcome other displaced students.
At City Year, we're at our best when our entire community mobilizes in support of each other. This is a moment where we can all stand and help together as one, and we are confident our community, staff, AmeriCorps members and school partnerships will come back stronger than ever.