Local volunteers say they’re answering a higher calling –
By Patricia Beech –
In the wake of the recent flooding that damaged homes and left thousands in Baton Rouge, Louisiana homeless, volunteers from across the country have made their way to the flood-ravaged city, and that includes people from our own area.
Local business owner Brandon Stephenson was one of those people. The bearded, tatted owner of Status Tattoos in West Union said, “I was complaining about money, and my friend said ‘what about those people in Louisiana, they’re probably broke right now too.’ I said, ‘you’re exactly right, I shouldn’t be so ungrateful’, and that pushed me into action.”
Stephenson turned to social media. Posting a call for relief on Facebook, he waited to see what feedback it would generate.
“Almost immediately I got a call from Eric and Melanie Osman. They’re the ones who actually made this effort happen,” says Stephenson. “Eric really got the ball rolling on the project.”
Osman, who owns E&M Trucking in Unity, says when he saw Stephenson’s Facebook post he felt a calling to help.
“I felt this was something God wanted me to do, and I wanted to show people that if we all pull together, we can make a difference, we don’t need politicians to make a difference – we, as people can do it,” Osman said. “I wanted to inspire people to step up and help those who were in a time of need. If we could make a difference why not do that?” More than 300 individuals and businesses across six counties answered the call.
Reaching out to fellow truckers Osman quickly lined up a van truck and a flat bed truck for the cause. Within days the van truck was filled with relief supplies while the flat bed carried a load of lumber and a mini-barn donated by a local Amish business.
Stephenson and the Osmans arrived Monday, Aug. 9 in the Baton Rouge parish of Central.
Melanie Osman described the scene. “When we got down there they took us through the town. People’s belongings were piled up at the end of their driveways like garbage,” she said. “It was like their whole lives were trashed, they were just waiting for this double dumpster garbage truck to come to scoop it all up and throw it away. It was so sad.”
Osman said the pictures on social media don’t do justice to the extensive damage. “What really got me were the baby items,” she said. “The cribs and baby-walkers and rocking chairs that I know these people need, but don’t have. She said it was difficult to keep her emotions in check seeing how the people there were suffering. I spent most of the time there fighting back tears, and I could sit down right now and cry, but I just don’t have the time.”
The group was met in Central by the parish mayor, Junior Shelton, who thanked them for their donations and said, “I’m amazed at the number of donations you’ve brought, you’ve made a real difference for us.”
“The town opened their arms and hearts to us,” said Mrs. Osman. “They were so happy to see us.”