White Castle group seeks donations for Lake Charles

Staff Report

A recent White Castle High School graduate has launched an effort to bring together Iberville Parish for a relief effort to benefit Hurricane Laura victims in southwest Louisiana.

Cody Kelson has organized “Pack a Trailer,” a drive that will collect goods for the Lake Charles area. Donations will continue through today (Sept. 10) at 7 p.m. The drop-off point will be at the White Castle Resource Center on 55035 Cambre St., behind the White Castle Town Hall.

He organized the project along with White Castle Mayor John Morris, White Castle Police Chief Mario Brown and District 1 Parish Council member Shalanda Allen.

Drinking water is the most needed item, Kelson said. The list also includes dry goods, non-perishable foods, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, baby formula, masks, toiletries and diapers.

The goods will be delivered Friday.

“We’re not doing this only for White Castle, but on behalf of all of Iberville Parish,” he said.

The storm hit particularly close to home for Kelson and the community, largely because of the school’s band director, Jonathan St. Andrews.

St. Andrews is a Lake Charles resident who rents a home in Plaquemine for the WCHS band job.

“He was our motivation,” Kelson said. “Mr. St. Andrews may have lost his roof in the storm, but he was lucky – so many others lost everything.”

St. Andrews evacuated to a friend’s house in Spring, Texas, a suburb in the north side of Houston.

The bulletins led him to evacuate, but he could not grasp the full extent of urgency at the moment.

“I didn’t know what to think,” St. Andrews said. “I kept trying to figure out how it could get worse than Rita – I didn’t think it was possible.”

Warnings within 24 hours of Laura’s arrival changed his mind.

“I was just floored at the amount of water they predicted,” he said. “When I saw that, I knew it was going to be something truly unbelievable.”

The outreach from Iberville Parish and throughout the state brings much-needed encouragement to residents who lost everything, but it’s hard to convey the brute force of hurricanes to residents outside of the coastal region, St. Andrews said.

“People in other areas tend to downplay hurricanes because they don’t have to live with it, but you understand it when you don’t have to live in this region,” he said. “We’re automatically on alert at all times, and people who don’t live in the area shouldn’t downplay it,” he said.

The residents in Baton Rouge and New Orleans understand it well, St. Andrews said.

“From what I understand, people in New Orleans and especially Baton Rouge have been really hospitable to the people of Lake Charles – they understand,” he said. “The residents in New Orleans have a lot of compassion because of Katrina, and I believe the same applies to Baton Rouge because of the 2016 flood.

“Even in Houston, they don’t dismiss it because they know it can happen anywhere,” St. Andrews said. “I’m originally from Monroe, and to the best of my knowledge a hurricane never touched that area, but Laura came to that area as a Category 2, so anything can happen.”