Catholic TCU student leads mission to Louisiana to aid hurricane-stricken hometown
FORT WORTH — Hurricane Ida came ashore from the Gulf of Mexico into the state of Louisiana at around 12:55 p.m. on Aug. 29, 2021, packing winds of about 150 miles per hour, leaving death and catastrophic destruction in its wake.
When the storm hit her Louisiana home, Houma resident and TCU student Maddy Rodrigue, 21, was safely at school in Fort Worth some 526 miles west of the city of more than 33,000 people that sits near the Gulf. Houma is the parish seat of Terrebonne Parish and is the largest city in the Houma-Bayou City-Thibodaux metropolitan area.
Concerned for her family and friends, Rodrigue returned to Houma about a week later and found a scene of devastation.
“My family still didn’t have power,” she said. “The gas stations were pretty much cut off to public use and all the electric lines were down. It was just crazy.”
After seeing the toll inflicted on her hometown by the Category 4 storm, Rodrigue decided she needed to do more, so, in December, she began talking about the disaster to her fellow students at the end of Masses at TCU. She wanted to gauge their interest in journeying eight hours to Houma to help with cleanup and restoration of the community.
On the final weekend of January, Rodrigue led a group of seven TCU volunteers to Houma where the local Catholic Charities had organized not only their stay, but the work the group would do.
Once there, Rodrigue’s team hit the ground running, aiding two families who needed help gutting their homes’ interiors and prepping for restoration. The volunteers helped the families who otherwise would have to pay for the work that they might not be able to afford, Rodrigue said.
She said the structural integrity of the homes was deteriorated because of water and wind damage.
The work included pulling down ceiling tiles, knocking down drywall, and pulling the panels off the walls.
“Just kind of clearing everything out for them,” she said.
“Both owners were there while we were doing that and we got to talk with them before we went in and then at the end,” Rodrigue said. “They were so grateful that people were willing to give some of their time so that they wouldn’t have to pay some crazy prices for that to happen.”
Having the owners present made an impression on the young volunteers.
“As we were working, it was very tangible for us to see the impact. The first owner told us afterward how much it meant to her,” Rodrigue said. “She started crying and, well, it wasn’t our intention to get recognition, but it doesn’t hurt to see the impact that this is actually going towards something good.”
While the group wasn’t seeking appreciation, the effort did make an impression with other people for its grassroots show of faith and dedication to helping those in need.
Gabe Gutierrez, campus minister of the TCU Newman Center, said that Rodrigue came up with the idea for the trip and followed through on the logistics and planning.
“She spearheaded the initiative,” Gutierrez said. “She made the contacts with Catholic Charities and got the green light from them.”
Gutierrez commended Rodrigue and her fellow volunteers.
“She is fantastic,” Gutierrez said. “We’re very proud of her and, of course, this group … to really be outside [their comfort zone], to serve others because they feel compelled to do so.”
Rodrigue said she would consider making another trip and she would encourage like-minded people to consider going to Louisiana to help the state’s residents affected by Hurricane Ida.
“I think that there’s plenty of opportunity, and it’s really just reaching out and seeing what is needed at the moment,” Rodrigue said.