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South Mississippi first responders bring hurricane relief to LaPlace

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 6:38 PM CDT
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LAPLACE, La. (WLOX) - Before the break of dawn, a caravan of South Mississippi first responders gathered at the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department Work Center in Gulfport. Vehicles, trailers and equipment from fire and police departments across the Coast were doing their last preparations before crossing into Louisiana to LaPlace.

“This mission is to feed the first responders, the men and women who are out on the frontline and doing it every day,” Harrison County Fire Chief Pat Sullivan said.

Weeks of planning led to a team of volunteers to serve the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Department after their deputies took care of hundreds of people following Hurricane Ida.

“Just the act of showing up is a lot of the battle,” Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes said. “A lot of folks realize that there are people who care, who are concerned. We should be proud as a South Mississippi community for doing our part to try and make a difference.”

Along with trailers full of supplies, the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department brought their mobile cooking unit to grill, smoke, fry and boil every breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next four days. They’ll even try to add some Cajun flare.

“We’re in Louisiana, so flavor is something they are used to,” Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson said. “We can flavor it however we want to and they’re going to eat it. Their stomachs appreciate it, I can tell you.”

The fresh meals come after the St. John Parish deputies relied on weeks of MREs and other non-perishable food.

“There was a lady that came up earlier that said this is her second hot meal in two weeks, and that tells you a lot,” Peterson said. “It tells you how hard this community was hit. It means something to us knowing that we can provide something to eat that’s hot, that’s warm, with a cold drink to go with it and a bag of chips.”

The out-of-state team leaders said helping their neighbors to the west is something they felt they needed to do.

“We’ve been on the receiving end of this, and it’s much better being on the giving end,” Hewes said. “There’s folks in this LaPlace area and others that have been decimated. They’ve had three, four feet of water in their homes. Some of them have lost everything.”

The kindness is nothing new for the South Mississippi team. Since 2016, the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department has been ramping up efforts to help the same towns and communities that pitched in on the Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

“We just keep that chain of paying it forward, and giving it so somebody, knowing that it will come back to us,” Sullivan said.

While the main goal of the trip was to feed first responders in need, crews also wanted to donate all the supplies donated through the One Coast One Recovery effort. From food to cleaning supplies, pallets of goods were loaded off of trucks to soon be given to families -all thanks to South Mississippi residents and businesses.

“What you see here is a result of our community responding,” Hewes said. “Sometimes in the worst of situations we see the best of each other.”

With another four-day trip scheduled for next week, Coast leaders hope people continue to show their support for our neighbors in need.

“Anything we can do to make the burden lighter for them, that’s what we are trying to do,” Hewes said.

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