NEW ORLEANS — Janya Jenson didn’t know Jessica Williams until she volunteered to do her laundry.
“I mean, I just can’t explain,” said Williams. “It makes me feel secure. It gives me hope for my kids.”
Williams and her family are just getting by, like thousands of Hurricane Laura evacuees who found shelter in New Orleans.
“Me and my four kids, we actually stayed in Leesville for Hurricane Laura. We experienced the whole thing. When the lights shut off on us, we had to get out,” said Williams.
Looking for help, Williams discovered the “Imagine Mutual Aid: COVID + Hurricane Season (New Orleans)” Facebook group, which is being used to connect Hurricane Laura evacuees and local New Orleanians who can help them with urgent needs.
Some New Orleanians have filled requests for baby formula, diapers, clothing, Bibles, and much more.
Others offer services that might help. Like Jenson, who knew she could do laundry for those who can’t make it to a laundromat.
“That was basically my offer, that I would come curbside, get folk’s clothes, and items that they needed washed. And take them, wash them, fold them, bring them back,” said Jenson. “Really simple, you know, way to participate. Doesn’t cost a lot of money, and directly impacts somebody’s life who just lost all their belongings.”
Imagine Waterworks operates and moderates the page, and has raised more than 55-thousand dollars for Laura survivors.
Director of Research and Advocacy, Miriam Belblidia, says while the city is doing a good job of getting evacuees what they need and keeping the Convention Center organized, the Facebook group is a much more personal approach.
“It’s been really amazing to see the connections that are happening where folks who went through Katrina and know what that experience is like are stepping up, are going out of their way to help folks that are coming here from other affected parishes,” said Belblidia.
Sometimes, those connections are as simple as a bag of freshly-washed clothes and a hug from a stranger.
“This gives me so much strength to know that the community will come together and help individuals who really need it,” said Williams.
Imagine Waterworks is accepting donations that go straight to those displaced by Hurricane Laura:
You can join the Facebook page to offer or request help: