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Rheas return kindness to ‘Cajun Invasion’

The moment Beth Rhea learned from social media that Kim Crane in Louisiana had experienced extensive flood damage after what’s being termed the “worst U.S. disaster since Hurricane Sandy,” she knew they had to go help.

It was a loving, humanitarian spirit that drove Beth and husband Barry to lend a hand, but the story goes even deeper: this was a chance to, as Beth put it, “return the favor.”

1-Beth Rhea, Mindy Braniff tackle Kim Crane’s flood-damaged home in Louisiana.
1- Beth Rhea, Mindy Braniff tackle Kim Crane’s flood-damaged home in Louisiana.

“The morning after the tornado hit Phil Campbell, Barry and I drove out to see if we could help in any way,” Rhea recalls. “He was cutting trees at the Phil Campbell Community Center when the first load of donations arrived. My daughter and I started trying to separate the supplies and find some way to organize things to be distributed to the families in need.

“Most people would bring their donations, stay a few minutes and be on their way. Then there were the wonderful people who brought donations and stayed to offer help. Those are the ones we built relationships with.”

One of those groups was “Team Cajun Invasion” – who, Beth said, “came rolling up the hill with trucks and trailer loads of supplies. They brought everything you can imagine – new things. Having been through Katrina, they knew exactly what we were facing and exactly what we would need.”

The Cajun Invasion stayed a few days and worked hard to help Phil Campbell get a good start on recovery, Beth said. “They made several trips bringing school supplies and Christmas gifts.  We formed friendships with them that will last a lifetime.”

That was the first time the Rheas worked with Cajun Invasion on recovery efforts. The next time was Oklahoma.

“When the tornado hit Oklahoma we all got together and carried supplies. I believe we worked in Oklahoma two days doing cleanup and delivering supplies,” she said.

But the Louisiana flood hit close to home, and now, it was the Rheas’ turn to extend Southern Hospitality in its sincerest form to their friends in Louisiana. “Barry and I accepted donations the week prior to our departure. Those donations were delivered to the home owner.  We are still accepting donations that will be used to order supplies for Team Cajun Invasion,” Beth said. “They have a wish list on Amazon that has items needed as they continue to work assisting other families.”

The Rheas traveled to Baton Rouge Aug. 19 to help Crane, an original member of Team Cajun Invasion. “Kim had 14 inches of water in her home,” Beth said. “We gutted the entire house from the floor to 48 inches up. All of her furniture had to be thrown out. Many personal belongings were lost.”

The team worked Saturday for nine hours and Sunday for six hours. On Saturday, Beth said, they had about 25 friends and family there to help and were even able to extend aid to a neighbor who had no one helping him.

“am not sure what I expected to see,” Beth admitted. “You can’t really imagine the damage a flood does until you witness it with your own eyes.” But the disaster was not without blessing – the proverbial silver lining. “We helped an old friend and also made new friends. It was another life-changing experience.”

 

“The Phil Campbell tornado taught me a lot of things,” Beth said. “The most important one is that God will send you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it. He knew we needed someone to lift us up, and He sent Team Cajun Invasion to do just that. We are forever thankful for the friends we made during that time and will continue to offer help as long as we are able.

“We all have the ability to help – we simply have to find the willingness.”

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