BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - One of the men behind the Cajun Navy, which was started during the August 2016 flood, may be done with water rescues, but he is not finished with helping flood victims recover. He has now launched an online funding campaign called Crowd Relief, a volunteer-based program aimed at helping people recover.
Crews hit the streets Thursday afternoon to shoot a promo to get the word out about the initiative. Rob Gaudet thought of the idea, saying flood victims cannot always wait for federal assistance. He says the fastest way to get results is for people to help people.
"There's money coming in to rebuild homes, but once the home's rebuilt, you got to move back into it, so we felt like crowd funding would be a great mechanism to get those items replaced because people can give based on the amount of money they can afford to offer," said Gaudet.
The website showcases about a dozen stories of survival and the needs associated with each sponsored family. Gaudet says the goal is to take on more families and drive home the needs that still exist months after the flood.
"With Crowd Relief, you actually see where the money's going to be spent. You're literally buying an item for a person, so you're helping replace something that that person lost," said Gaudet.
Melissa Capello is about halfway through her application for the program. After seeing the site for herself, she knew the group was the best way to get help, even though it goes against how she was raised.
"You don't know unless you've been there," Capello said. "Most people in Louisiana we want to help ourselves and we don't. We don't want to ask for what we need."
She and her family are still fighting to get back into their home. She says realizing somewhere out there, people have not forgotten about what so many went through in August, is heartwarming.
"Like my mom said, we just started with the group, but already like, I just have so much appreciation for what they're doing and them being willing to help," said Ashlyn Capello.
Shanna Forrestall is part of the team working to boost the program's online brand. She has been back and forth from California since the flood and says helping those in her hometown is priceless. "You see the ugly, the pain, and the devastation that people face, but at the same time, you see the other side and that's hope and generosity and all the beautiful things that I've seen displayed here as well and so I'm grateful for that," said Forrestall.
While so many people are still struggling, Forrestall hopes her part in getting them relief will remind them that they matter and help is out there. "We can all help them here, help them there, fund them here, or support this there," Forrestall said. "If we all do that, the work will get done."
Anyone interested in signing up for help or volunteering with Crowd Relief can click here.