By Eric Griffey, Spectrum News
DEQUINCY, La. — When Hurricane Ike hit the southern Texas coast in 2008, members of the Cajun Special Forces, a group of volunteers who help rescue, feed, and deliver supplies to victims of natural disasters, arrived in the area en masse. The Louisiana-based group rescued people whose houses were underwater, distributed much-needed feed for livestock, and brought food to a region that was without power for days.
Beaumont resident Brian Dunigan did not forget their generosity and sacrifice. Since Hurricane Laura made landfall more than three weeks ago, he and a group of volunteers have been shuttling food and supplies to some of the hardest-hit areas of Southwest Louisiana. Dunigan and his fellow volunteers have chosen to focus on the small towns that he and others say don’t receive the same attention as Lake Charles and other bigger cities ravaged by the storm.
“Once CNN and Fox News or whatever news crew leaves the hurricane, people from other cities and states think the worst is over, but it’s not,” he said. “Just because the sun is shining at your house and it is beautiful, 30 miles to the east it’s still messed up. They need help.”
Since Katrina devastated Louisiana, Dunigan and others have been raising money and soliciting donations of food and supplies year-round in preparation for natural disaster relief. He and his wife started a nonprofit, Helping Hand of Southeast Texas, which uses 100 percent of its donations to purchase vital provisions for storm victims. He and others coordinate with local authorities on where the group should visit to pass out their food and supplies.
Working with Dunigan, Winnie, Texas, resident Amy Hamilton, who owns popular eatery Cattleman’s Kitchen, prepared enough food to feed about 3,000 people. She said organizations, businesses, and people from all around the country have sent money and food. The All-American Beef Battalion, a trade group that supports American service members, sold Hamilton and Dunigan more than a thousand pounds of pulled pork and 300 pounds of sausage for $1 a pound – a roughly 75 percent discount, according to various barbecue forums.
Dunigan and Hamilton recently returned from a short tour of smaller towns in their neighboring state –– including Carlyss, DeQuincy, Sulphur, and Vinton –– where they dropped off pulled pork sandwiches, spaghetti, jambalaya, bottled water, and more.
Dequincy resident and principal of the local primary school Amanda Jackson Guerrero called Dunigan and Hamilton “a godsend.” She is a volunteer at The Pentecostal Church, where she helps coordinate the relief effort. The church created a drive-through pickup for food and supplies. She said her town is dependent on donations from out-of-town people, organizations, and businesses.