DENHAM SPRINGS - The flood devastation in Denham Springs is harshly revealed in the endless mounds of water-soaked, stinking debris. But it was shocking to Youth Empowerment Project volunteers from New Orleans.
"Katrina goes through my mind all over again, it's a devastating scene," said YEP staffer Chabre Johnson.
Amite Baptist Church in Denham Springs took on two feet of water, briefly trapping 100 refugees.
"We were scared to stay there," remembered Pastor Michael Luce.
The teenaged volunteers powered through the tough work of gutting and cleaning church buildings.
"And I'm glad just to be here to give back to the community, to show them I'm still here, and I want to help," said YEP participant Michael Ranson.
The purpose of Youth Empowerment Project is to change lives.
"We tie into mentoring, educational support, workforce development," Johnson said.
"Honestly it is keeping me out of trouble," explained YEP participant Sami'a Bethley. "I've been out of trouble for maybe a year now, ever since I've been with them."
"If I never went to YEP, I'd have been locked up now, I'm glad I just went there, I'm glad that people wanted to help me," added Ranson.
Pastor Luce is glad Michael and his friends helped clean the church.
"Gratefulness," Luce said.
I talked to Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser this morning. He's been putting out urgent calls for volunteers all week long. Take a look around me, the cleanup is just beginning, the recovery really hasn't even started yet. Volunteers are urgently needed throughout the flood zone.
"We have a huge need for volunteers because all we've been able to do now is basically dig ourselves out," said Pastor Luce.
"I don't like to see people like this, I really don't. Had to come help others," concluded Sami'a Bethley.