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Notre Dame sophomore helps with Louisiana flood relief effort

| Monday, August 29, 2016

A torrential rainfall starting Aug. 11 caused 20 Louisiana parishes to be designated federal disaster areas by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Eleven people have been confirmed dead, according to news media outlets, and thousands more have lost their homes. Sophomore Gaven DeVillier and his family are doing their best to provide relief.

“Mom was really restless on Saturday, as we all were, and she decided that we needed to do something to help out,” DeVillier said. “She posted on Facebook and got in contact with some friends and said ‘hey look, we’re gonna have a donation drop-off at our house, and then we’ll take the supplies to wherever they need to go.’ She sent that out Saturday night and early Sunday morning, just to let people know.

“It got to the point around noon [Sunday], our carport was full with supplies. My mom contacted some of the people at the local high school, Brusly High, and they were gracious enough to help, so a few of them went out. We thought there was going to be four people there; it turned out it was over 50. Fifty people volunteering to take the stuff we had and shipping it to where it needed to go.”

DeVillier, who is from Brusly in West Baton Rouge, said his family’s home was not damaged.

“If you look a map of the parishes that were considered disaster zones, there’s a circle around West Baton Rouge,” he said. “We were lucky to not be affected directly, but my best friends’ houses, my high school teachers’ houses, they all flooded, or a lot of their houses flooded. We had 12 teachers from my high school, Catholic High, who had at least some damage to their homes.

Much of the organization and communication between the shelters within the East and West Baton Rouge parishes was done by DeVillier’s mother, he said. The DeVillier family and other volunteers took supplies to shelters across the region, including Port Allen Parish Center, the River Center and Celtic Studios. 

Additionally, the DeVillier’s family assisted in organizing relief efforts for members of the Catholic High community, where his father teaches senior physics and his brothers are seniors.

“[Tuesday], we spent the morning trying to coordinate which students from Catholic High needed help, whose houses were flooded,” he said. “The school wanted to get together and see what it could do for its own community. It was a volunteer invitation to the teachers; we probably had like 30 students come too that just showed up. The turnout was incredible that first day and continuing on through the week.”

DeVillier spent several of his last days of vacation helping his former educators, including his senior guidance counselor, religion teacher and English teacher.

“The work included tearing out sheetrock, bleaching the walls, because that’s how you kill the mold cheaply, tearing out the carpet, tearing out the flooring, moving everything, sorting things out that were ruined,” he said. “It wasn’t fun work.”

While DeVillier said his family did “a lot of help,” he also said the relief efforts weren’t about his family.

“It really wasn’t us, I would say that it was primarily the Holy Spirit coordinating people together,” he said. “You wouldn’t be able to believe it if you didn’t see it: people were jumping into the water to save other people, people were waiting in line for two and a half hours to get to where the flooding was in baton rouge so they could drop off their boats to go do search and rescue. The United States military, the National Guard, they don’t have those kind of numbers. But the Cajun people really rallied around our own.”

The DeVillier family isn’t done yet.

DeVillier, who is active in the Knights of Columbus on campus, said the Notre Dame chapter is planning on donating profits from its first steak sale to help the people of Louisiana.

“My mom is still organizing supplies,” he said. “Cajuns love to cook — she’s also organizing hot meals to be delivered to volunteers throughout Baton Rouge. She’s still working.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley was Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. She majored in English and the Program of Liberal Studies and hailed from Flushing, Michigan.

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