You know I love the saying “A picture paints a thousand words”, so if a picture does that, then what does a video do? But first, a little back story; you KNOW how I love stories!
In 2005, after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita swept across our bayou communities hitting us first with damaging winds and then with saltwater storm surges, a small group of people banned together down on Bayou Petit Caillou to receive and distribute disaster relief by the truckloads. Eventually, those folks organized what is now called Bayou Grace Community Services.
Around 2006, I crossed paths with co-founder, Courtney Pellegrin Howell, and because of my book and wetland education endeavors, she asked me to speak to thousands of disaster relief volunteers from across the nation at weekly community dinners held at the local recreation center over in Chauvin. Those selfless, caring, generous folks were quite interested in our plight, with many volunteers returning time and time again.
As Fate would have it, no sooner had the group picked a name and incorporated as a non-profit in 2007, than our five bayou communities were ravaged by double hurricanes–Gustave and Ike in 2008. Once again, what the wind left behind after Gustave, the flood waters of Ike then inundated. And once again, volunteers flooded to help through Bayou Grace.
Since their beginnings in distributing disaster relief aid and organizing volunteer work crews, Bayou Grace has slowly moved their focus toward education and coastal restoration.
In the summer of 2009, I worked for Bayou Grace. During that time, I set up a partnership with the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program to involve volunteers in future marsh plantings on restoration projects.
That partnership exists today, and the end result still brings me great satisfaction in knowing that I played a small part in making that happen.
During my association with Bayou Grace, I worked with their Volunteer Coordinator at the time, Diane Huhn. Together we did some pretty good work. She has since moved on, but the years she spent working for pennies, and the things she accomplished will be remembered and appreciated for years to come. Diane is now an award-winning photographer, and I like to think I’m the one who taught her the difference between a heron and an egret during our fishing trips together. Before she moved back to her home in Michigan, however, she took one last ride on my boat and brought New Orleans artist, Michel Varisco, with her.
Bayou Grace had partnered with Varisco to produce a short, poignant film educating folks about how the Five Bayou Communities came to be in this predicament and what we stand to lose as our communities slowly slip into the Gulf. Again, I’m very thankful that Diane asked me to participate and for Bayou Grace’s continued work in the Five Bayou Communities, shown in this image designed for me by Rocky McKeon.
Mary Gueniot-Biegler, current director of Bayou Grace, recently sent me a link to the finished short film, and I’m very excited to share that with you today. Please watch it, learn something new and see in images what I’ve been writing about here for seven years. Oh, and enjoy the original Cajun music by Zachary Richard!
As always . . . for the wetlands
Appearing in this video:
Mike Pellegrin, retired shrimper, Chauvin on Bayou Petit Caillou
Kerry St. Pe`, retired director of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP)
Capt. Wendy Wilson Billiot, yours truly, Theriot on Bayou Dularge
Kirby Verret, Methodist pastor, Dulac on Bayou Grand Caillou
Kevin Goodman, Volunteer, Episcopal priest, Chicago
Joey Sylvester, Volunteer from Chicago
Jamie Billiot, past director of Dulac Community Center on Bayou Grand Caillou
Bea Prosperie, retired director of Chauvin Recreation Center, Bayou Petit Caillou