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North Texas softball coaches support McNeese State, Lake Charles community following Hurricane Laura

North Texas softball coaches support McNeese State, Lake Charles community following Hurricane Laura

North Texas softball coaches support McNeese State, Lake Charles community following Hurricane Laura
September 25
15:30 2020

North Texas softball coaches Jamie Allred and Rodney DeLong drove to Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Saturday, Sept. 12 to deliver relief supplies to the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura. They met there with Shellie Landry, assistant softball coach at McNeese State University, who has been spearheading efforts by McNeese athletes to help in the community’s clean-up and recovery efforts. 

Hurricane Laura made landfall in Louisiana on Aug. 26, wreaking havoc on Louisiana and the city of Lake Charles in particular with sustained winds up to 150 miles per hour, according to weather.com. The category 4 storm is estimated to have caused damages between $8 billion and $12 billion in Louisiana, according to local newspaper The Lafayette Daily Advertiser.

Softball assistant coach Jamie Allred first decided to hold a supply drive for the Lake Charles community after discovering the extent to which the city had been affected by Hurricane Laura. 

“I didn’t even realize how bad it was until the following week [after Hurricane Laura] when I started seeing posts from people I knew in the community as they were returning home,” Allred said. “At that point, it was just really on my heart that I wanted to help in some form or fashion.”

Having spent her college years at McNeese playing softball, Allred felt a particular connection to the Lake Charles community and was motivated to give back to them in their time of need.

“I spent my four years there, went to college there … that community was so good to me,” Allred said. “Whenever I saw how much damage was done, I knew I just wanted to be able to do something, anything I could do.”

At the outset, Allred figured she would simply fill her truck up with supplies herself and drive those down to Lake Charles. She was instead overwhelmed by the amount of support and donations she received from the North Texas community, including members of the softball program and athletics department.

Upon arriving in Lake Charles with the hurricane relief supplies, Allred and DeLong were both struck by how widespread the destruction was throughout Lake Charles, a city of over 78,000 people. One of the main supplies they brought was bottled water because the city had dealt with power outages for several weeks and lacked clean water.

“I would say the majority of what we took down there was water because all of their water systems were compromised,” Allred said. “The town has been without power for the last couple weeks and so, of course, if you don’t have a generator, then you don’t have power and you really have no way to boil your water.”

Allred said that she and DeLong gave part of their supplies to members of the softball community in Lake Charles, but they took most of them to downtown Lake Charles where she said a Cajun Navy group is stationed and distributing items as needed.

Landry was grateful to receive such support from North Texas, citing relationships built between the two coaching staffs from their competition in a tournament McNeese hosted last spring.

“We’re competitive on the field and then, when a disaster happens off the field, they’re the first people calling us and saying ‘Hey, what do you guys need, we’re coming down with a truckload,’ and they’re there to help us,” Landry said. “It is truly incredible and it says a lot about who they are and what their program means.”

Landry has been working with McNeese’s athletes to help clean up Lake Charles, prioritizing university faculty and administrators’ houses to help the school continue to operate.

“Most professors have been hit pretty hard, so we kind of made it our top priority to go, with the athletes and coaches, and get to the professors,” Landry said. “They had priority over most of the rest of the community.”

North Texas head softball coach Rodney DeLong was impressed by the selflessness of McNeese’s athletes in helping others in their community clean up before worrying about their own facilities.

“One of the first things we heard was that the girls and the staff that could be there, the first thing they did is they were out in their community, cleaning other people’s houses up … really just helping the community,” DeLong said. “We drive over to their facility, and it’s a mess. They haven’t even cleaned their own facility yet because they’re trying to help their community.”

DeLong said it was important for him to take part in the effort because of his relationship with the McNeese softball coaching staff, particularly head coach James Landreneau, and the experience he and the team had competing with McNeese last spring.

“We went and played down there last year and they treated us so well, and their community treated us so well,” DeLong said. “I just felt like we owed it to them to help them and do anything that we could, because … if we experienced a disaster like this, I promise you that staff would’ve done the same thing for us.”

Courtesy Shellie Landry 

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John Fields

John Fields

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