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Keith McCord ReportingTwo employees of a Salt Lake Food Distribution company witnessed first-hand the frustration hurricane victims experienced with aid distribution. They drove to Louisiana to deliver food and water.
Last week Keith McCord interviewed driver Don Broussard and Human Resource manager Jennifer Carroll at Nicholas and Company. Employees donated food and water, and Don and Jennifer were planning to take it to the Astrodome in Houston. But after encountering red tape, they drove to Louisiana instead, and they took their camera!
They left Salt Lake early last Saturday. By the time they were in eastern Texas, they noticed something interesting-- military convoys.
Jennifer Carroll, Nicholas & Co.: "Overall we saw seven to 10 very large convoys heading down."
The trucks stretched for miles along the interstate, full of men and equipment and supplies. Midnight Wednesday they arrive at a truck stop in Slidell, Louisiana, the only place with lights, but nothing else works!
The next morning they head through town, which is mostly deserted and heavily damaged. They unload much of their food and water at the LDS Church's large warehouse. Then, with a few pallets of water left on the truck, they just start going around town, looking for people in need.
Jennifer Carroll: "At one point we went to a Walgreens, and just started handing out water at the pharmacy, because the pharmacy lines were so backed up because people didn't have their prescriptions filled in time."
And when word got out that there was a truck with water in the parking lot, the people lined up to get a box, or two, or three! They went to a nearby FEMA staging area to hand out the last of their water. Cars were lined up for blocks.
But as she handed out water herself, Jennifer heard the stories from residents about the chaos and disorganization of the relief effort.
Jennifer Carroll, Nicholas & Co.: "And the total disgust they had with FEMA, so while they were in there, you could tell they were very disgusted with the way this was handled."
Despite her efforts to coordinate with FEMA and other authorities before leaving Utah, Jennifer and Don found themselves calling their own shots. Frustrating, but also satisfying.
Jennifer Carroll: "Yeah, it felt great. Probably one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. Glad that we did it."
Other impressions: people were very stressed out; looting everywhere; and when the closer they got to the Slidell area, the smell was quite overpowering.