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Oxford’s Salvation Army helps flood victims

Oxford resident and local Salvation Army director Lisa Coleman found herself in Baton Rouge last week to help the thousands of residents who were affected by what’s been called the Louisiana Flood of 2016.

Coleman arrived in Baton Rouge on Friday and immediately joined the other hundreds of Salvation Army workers in providing services and basic needs to the flood victims.

According to the National Weather Service, Baton Rouge received about 26 inches of rain in a four-day period, leaving thousands homeless. The storm is one the most extreme in recorded history and the area would only be forecasted to experience such rainfall once every 500 years. The rain affected several parts of southern Louisiana and Mississippi.

Coleman is a disaster worker for the state of Mississippi through the Salvation Army. She also runs the Oxford Salvation Army Thrift Store on West Oxford Loop.  Responding to areas after a disaster has become common for Coleman.

The Salvation Army is set up in the old Cortana Mall in Baton Rouge. Other nonprofit organizations and emergency response teams are set up in 56 areas around Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Salvation Army is primarily providing food to the flood victims, working hand-in-hand with Tyson Foods to provide lunch and dinner to about 4,000 people a day.

Coleman is in charge of the food canteens — eight large mobile food trucks with full kitchens and two sandwich trucks — that drive into several areas a day, including the cities of Zachery and Baker, Denham Springs, on the east side of Baton Rouge. After the canteens finish, sometimes as late as 9:30 p.m., they have to be scrubbed down and sterilized and then reequipped for the next day.

“We served 3,500 lunches today,” Coleman said Monday. “If we run out of food, they contact me, come back to the loading area, load up and go back out.”

Tyson is set up near SA and is cooking the lunches, providing chicken sandwiches, large hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken wraps. Dinners are being prepared by several providers who are meet the Department of Health standards. On Monday, the SA served 4,200 dinners.

Other services are offered through a variety of organizations that are also set up at the mall. Flood victims receive large boxes of food, cases of water, clothing, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies, cleaning supplies and ice.

“It’s just amazing to see,” Coleman said. “So many people are working really hard to help the people here.”

Coleman said the services provided by the Salvation Army during disasters are made possible through the donations the organization receives from businesses and individuals.

“When you see something like this going on, you really see that when you donate, that money is truly going back to people who need help,” she said.

Coleman will remain in Baton Rouge until Aug. 31, when a new group of Salvation Army employees and volunteers will arrive for a two-week stay.

Coleman has spent the last few days outside in temperatures as high as 102 with the heat index. After ruining three pairs of shoes because of all the mud, she now wears purple rain boots.

“It’s hot and I’m tired,” she said. “But I know I have a home and warm bed to go home to, and a lot of these people don’t. It’s all worth it. The hugs I get from the people here, makes it all worth it.”

Before heading to Baton Rouge, Coleman’s car was loaded up with food, water and other emergency supplies through donations people made through the Oxford-Lafayette Chamber of Commerce.

For more information about the Salvation Army — how to donate or about its emergency response efforts in Baton Rouge — visit http://www.salvationarmyusa.org. The Oxford Salvation Army can be reached at 662-236-2260.