THE MOST NECESSARY CASE FUND
The houses were uninhabitable and the groups had to adjust the services. Called to action, one man said, “It’s always satisfying to help people, especially when it’s the people you live with.
Power was cut to Mamie Jackson’s home on Sunday afternoon when Hurricane Ida moved through Louisiana. The rain came next, and when Ms. Jackson realized her bedroom ceiling was leaking, she placed a bucket under the leak. The next thing she knew was that her ceiling was crumbling.
“We moved downstairs and just started listening and watching the destruction happen,” Ms. Jackson said.
She and her husband moved into the only room of their home in Kenner, Louisiana, about 15 miles from New Orleans, which was not leaking. They listened to several more ceilings collapse, a tree fell, and the patio became a “bloop”.
For Ms. Jackson, 57, feeling helpless is unusual. As a retired supply sergeant in the United States Army, Ms. Jackson eventually put her skills to work for Second Harvest, a pantry in New Orleans. The group is a member of the Feeding America network, which is supported by the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. As COO, Ms. Jackson has built a reputation for nonsense, and her work ethic has earned her the nickname “General Jackson” among her staff.
But in all of her years of service and helping in times of destruction, Ms. Jackson had never suffered damage to her personal property like she did during Hurricane Ida. “It was a new experience,” she said. “Watching your house crumble around you was amazing to me.”
Ms Jackson went to live with her family before moving to a hotel, where she and her husband still live. But two days after her house was nearly destroyed, it was time to get back to work.
She and her Second Harvest team have weathered a handful of storms over the past year, in addition to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout. So when the hurricane hit the region on September 5, “we knew what to prepare for,” she said.
The storm damaged floors and skylights at Second Harvest’s warehouse, and a fallen electrical wire restricted one of their truck routes. But Ms. Jackson and her team returned to work on Tuesday, September 7, and started what they do best: loading trucks with fresh water, ice and food.
Ms. Jackson said it was a relief to get up and go to work.
“We’re here to help people make ends meet,” she said. “We’re here to do a job, it’s not the most glamorous thing in the world, but it’s the proudest that goes with it.”
There remained the question of his house. When she first returned after the storm was over, Ms. Jackson fell to her knees in tears.
Three weeks after the storm started, an insurance adjuster said most of the walls in his house are expected to descend to the studs. Since then, she has returned to the house where she raised her three children, trying to salvage items like her precious record collection.
Ms. Jackson was displaced from her home for three months after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. So when residents attend food distribution events, she knows what it’s like to be in that line.
“When you cross a line, is it embarrassing? Yes. But do you need it? Yeah, she said. “We don’t look down on anyone because you never know what their situation might be.”
The Neediest Cases Fund is also supporting eight other organizations in its 2021-2022 campaign, which recently started. Kevin Roose, technology columnist for The Times, spurred a significant contribution when a non-fungible token, or NFT, from a column he wrote went up for auction in March. The proceeds were pledged by The New York Times Company to the Fund.
“I thought we could raise a few hundred dollars for a good cause,” Roose said.
He was blown away by the result: the NFT sold for 350 Ether, the cryptocurrency used for the auction, or around half a million dollars. Over the following months, cryptocurrency prices increased and the value of the winning bid rose to $ 1.1 million. This donation was recently allocated to the Fund’s 2021-22 campaign.
“This was only possible because Times readers and fans wanted to support the newspaper and its mission,” he said.
Another of the organizations supported by the Fund is World Central Kitchen. For Edmond Jackson, 55, it was a lifeline after the hurricane. And he turned his misfortune after Ida into an opportunity to help others. He had just started working as a dishwasher and cook at a restaurant in New Orleans when the storm hit.
The restaurant has closed. Mr. Jackson was out of work – and powerless. He told a chef at the restaurant that his food supply was a bit low. It was then that he was connected to World Central Kitchen, which is deploying pop-up kitchens in disaster areas around the world and is supported by The Fund. To date, they have served 460,000 meals in the region.
“I knew I would be fine. I didn’t know I would help people – that part was the good part, ”he said.
Mr. Jackson (who is not related to Ms. Jackson) was hired to work at the New Orleans Culinary Institute on an assembly line that prepared hot meals. He helped secure trays of food in heated transport units, and he did it with speed.
“In a way, it seemed normal,” he said. “It’s always satisfying to help people, especially when it’s the people you live with.
Mr. Jackson, who moved to New Orleans to help with recovery efforts after Katrina, worked with World Central Kitchen for a month in a row. He had a few days off and is now back to his usual job.
Just as Ida was leaving Louisiana, the storm triggered torrential rains that also affected New York City.
Many basements filled with water, including the lower level offices of the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless, a workforce development program based in Long Island City, Queens. The group, which is supported by the Community Service Society, a recipient of the Fund, uses office space for adult education, computer training, mock interviews and counseling.
The storm brought nearly two feet of water to the office. The association trains around 220 clients each year and supports more than 600, but without the office’s headquarters much of the programming has been put on hold.
“Our space was designed to be theirs,” said James Martin, Executive Director. “Our people receive real one-on-one attention, and it’s effective. “
He fears that the lack of in-person time means some clients are falling through the cracks. But the group is meanwhile doubling its contacts with customers and hopes the space will be reopened by the end of this month.
“We are fighters here,” said Martin. “This is what we preach and what we do.
Donations to The Neediest Cases Fund can be made online or by check.
Sara aridi contributed reports.