Coalition helps flood-ravaged Louisiana communities begin rebuilding process
March 27/April 3, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 21
By Reginald Tucker
For a storm with no name, it sure inflicted a lot of destruction on Baton Rouge and surrounding areas.
The storm rolled in on Aug. 12, 2016, with more than three times the amount of rainfall than Hurricane Katrina, the massive superstorm that ravaged Louisiana back in 2005. Over the course of three days, 146,000 homes were flooded, thousands of businesses went under and 13 people lost their lives.
While the state of Louisiana is no stranger to hurricanes, this area in particular has not historically been associated with massive flooding. The storm forced thousands of Louisianans into shelters when their homes were destroyed. Since many people who were affected did not reside in “high flood risk areas” they were not required to carry flood insurance.
But sometimes the worst of times brings out the best in people. In the wake of the natural disaster, Novalis Innovative Floors reached out to its distributors and dealers serving the area to explore ways in which it could lend a hand.
Angie Alexander, national sales manager, flew to Baton Rouge in the immediate aftermath of the storm to assess the damage with Pat Barker, outside sales representative of Crescent Hardwood Supply, the Novalis distributor in the area. They met with David Iles, president and co-owner of The Floor Store & More, a Carpet One dealer in Denham Springs, La., who sustained significant damage to both his home and his store. Together they toured the area, riding through neighborhoods devastated by the flooding and listened to the gut-wrenching accounts of the residents and business owners who were affected.
“I knew we needed to do something to help this area,” Alexander recalled. With the go-ahead from John Wu, CEO of Novalis, she was able to provide as much close-out LVT as possible to help as many as possible in the area.
Soon thereafter, a “partnership of recovery” between The Floor Store & More, Crescent Hardwood Supply and Novalis was forged to begin the long rebuilding process for people in Louisiana.
Iles spearheaded the coordinated effort and floor installations, while Novalis provided all the new LVT. Crescent provided new displays to affected dealers along with the shipping of thousands of dollars worth of Novalis LVT inventory to Baton Rouge.
“We were just the vessel; John and Angie from Novalis were the ones who stepped up,” Iles said. “I can’t say enough about what Novalis did to help our community.”
While his store is back up and running, Iles says there’s still a lot of work yet to be done. He estimates it will take at least three years before everything returns to normal. “We’ve seen this kind of destruction before on TV, but it’s not the same until it happens to you,” he told FCNews.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided trailers for the residents who lost their homes. But it was clear additional assistance was needed to begin repairing homes and businesses.
“The stories and the devastation are heartbreaking,” Alexander said. “Many put a priority on rebuilding their businesses—their only source of income—before fixing their own homes. At least we’ve been able to remove the costly burden of a new floor for both their home and business. And for that, these hard-working people are so grateful.”
One of those people includes Chris Paul, sales manager of Rancher Floor Covering, also based in Denham Springs. He said 90% of the parishes were flooded, and his store sustained significant damage. “Without the help of Novalis, we would have still been working on bare concrete. The company has done so much to not only help us but also many people in our community, especially the elderly.”
Barker also cited Novalis’ largesse. “They generosity they showed was just tremendous. Not only did they replace the flooring for five of my retail customers, but they also took care of the flooring in the store owners’ homes as well. They are a top-notch company and they really made a difference.”
Crescent also stepped up in a big way to help the community. In one case in particular, the distributor worked long and hard with a local church to rebuild a day care facility housing more than 250 children.
Many other residents received aid as well. “It’s a horrible feeling when you have a home you’ve lived in for 45-50 years, and all of a sudden everything is gone,” Barker said. “Many families lost everything because they didn’t have flood insurance.”
Work yet to be done
It took only a few days for the so-called “1,000-year flood” to recede, but officials and residents believe it could take many months or even years to fully recover.
“We’re currently overwhelmed with [rebuild] business,” Paul noted. “Our owner has been working 72 hours a week.”
Crescent Hardwood Supply’s Barker is in the midst of wrapping up what he calls the “first wave” of rebuilds. The next rounds could extend for many more months to come. “We’ve been working closely with dealers like Rancher Floor Covering as well as Smith Building Materials. We’ve developed a camaraderie that will last a lifetime.”
That sentiment extends to Novalis, which often checks in on the progress of those who have become an extended family of sorts. “We felt strongly about coming to the aid of the people of Baton Rouge after hearing the accounts of the devastation,” Wu said. “I believe this experience can serve as an example of how businesses can pull together to help the communities they serve. We were only too happy to play a small part.”