On Aug. 27, 2020, Hurricane Laura made landfall in Cameron Parish, south of Lake Charles, as a Category 4 storm with 150-mile-per-hour winds. More than two dozen people died in its aftermath. Trees were shredded and houses cracked open like eggs. Entire blocks of homes sustained so much damage they will almost certainly have to be razed.
Then, on the evening of Oct. 9, 2020, Hurricane Delta hit the coast not even 20 miles from where Laura made landfall, as a Category 2 storm with 100-mile-per-hour winds, unleashing floods that besieged neighborhoods and heavy rainfall that swamped homes with already damaged roofs. It was virtually impossible to discern where the destruction from one storm ended and that of the other began.
The one two punch that devastated the Lake Charles, LA area did not go unnoticed by Rotary Club of New Braunfels President Rick Keisling, who immediately began making plans for a relief effort trip to the area.
In the weeks leading up to the trip, Keisling put his powers of persuasion and fundraising skills into overdrive, soliciting $11,000 from club membership, $2,000 in a single meeting for food, to go directly to the Lake Charles community. In the process of planning the trip, Keisling learned of the Rotary partner Disaster Aid USA (DAUSA), a Rotary project open to all U. S. Rotary Districts, their clubs and their members, whose goal is to build a significant humanitarian aid organization that provides immediate relief to those victims when disasters strike. DAUSA agreed to a percentage match of all dollars raised by the club, contributing $9,000, and to join the club during their aid efforts, providing additional peoplepower, and tools.
On Nov. 20, 2020, with the trip planned and all logistics in order, a caravan of seven vehicles and 11 members and volunteers of the Rotary Club of New Braunfels, arrived in Lake Charles with a tractor, chainsaws and other equipment, and a mobile kitchen to feed hungry residents.
During the next two days they trimmed tress, cleared debris, and cooked over 2,000 meals feeding well over 2,000 people, and left the Lake Charles community with enough food for an additional 600 meals.
The seven club members, Rick Kiesling, Jim Wissmiller, Kathy Meurin, Bill Biggadike, Eric Pipkin, Allen White, and Ami Feller Wells, and the four volunteers, Kim Kiesling, Kouper Kiesling, Cindy Wissmiller, and Meghan Smith, who participated in the aid effort were each greatly affected by both the tremendous amount of destruction they witnessed, and by how incredibly appreciative the people of the community were for their selflessness and service – truly People of Action in every sense of the word.