The timing of today’s Hospitality Helping Hands event at EduCon couldn’t be better, says Chris Cameron, executive director of HandsOn New Orleans, a nonprofit that organizes grassroots community service projects to benefit New Orleans residents. June 1 marked the start of hurricane season and HHH volunteers will pack 750 evacuation and preparation family care kits to be distributed to low-income families, Cameron said.
New Orleans “has a long, rich, and unique cultural history,” Cameron said, “yet our very existence is threatened by climate change in a city that sits below sea level.” Residents can expect an average of seven major storms a season, he added. “The frequency and intensity of hurricanes means that residents must remain ever-vigilant and ready to make decisions to leave or stay at a moment’s notice during hurricane season,” which ends Nov. 3.
Even when individuals and families have sufficient financial resources to pack up and get out of harm’s way, evacuation is “stressful and hard,” Cameron said. “Our challenge is that New Orleans is a poor city with 24 percent living at or below the federal level of poverty, nearly twice the U.S. average. When you add to that the percentage of families that are employed but working paycheck to paycheck with no savings, the number increases by 33 percent. This means that a staggering 57 percent of residents cannot afford to seek safe shelter.”
Each kit will be packed in a reusable fabric tote, and volunteers will write notes of encouragement to be tucked inside. Along with emergency food and other supplies, such as protein bars, electrolyte mix sticks, flashlights and batteries, antiseptic wipes, and children’s activity books, each kit will also contain hurricane-preparedness literature to help residents connect with city-assisted evacuation and other resources.
The kits also will serve as a reminder to residents that the start of the hurricane season is the right time have emergency supplies gathered and for them to make a plan to keep medication and important documents where they can readily be accessed, Cameron said. Following the event, the kits will be immediately delivered to residents through a partnership between HandsOn New Orleans and DoorDash.
New Orleans is a joyful city, Cameron said. “There’s a lot that needs to be fixed, and we’re happy to be doing what we can.”
Barbara Palmer is deputy editor of Convene.