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C’ville man lends talents to hurricane relief efforts

Larry Ze85 Carpentersville (bottom right) spent most last week Port Sulphur La. with Southern Baptist ConventiDisaster Relief Illinois team helping

Larry Zea, 85, of Carpentersville (bottom right), spent most of last week in Port Sulphur, La., with a Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief Illinois team helping cleanup efforts underway in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac.

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Updated: November 1, 2012 6:35AM

While Hurricane Isaac is a fading memory for a good part of the country, Larry Zea of Carpentersville recently saw firsthand how people are still dealing with the aftermath of the storm.

Zea spent most of last week with other Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief Illinois volunteers who headed to Port Sulphur, La., to lend a hand with ongoing cleanup efforts.

Port Sulphur is a small town of less than 2,000 residents, south of New Orleans, on the west bank of the Mississippi, and not far from where the big river empties into the Gulf of Mexico. While Isaac struck the region about a month ago, in 2010, the Port Sulphur area was hit hard with oil slicks left by the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, the largest in the nation’s history.

Zea, 85, left very early Monday and arrived that evening at his destination to join a group put up by the Port Sulphur Baptist Church.

“They had a large room that would be our home for the next week. Pastor Lynn Rodriguez met me and showed me where I would be staying,” Zea wrote in one of emails he sent to The Courier-News during his journey.

According to Zea, this church “is the focal point for everyone in the area, where they can come and get water and food from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every day. There is a steady stream of cars waiting for them to open their line. They pass out about a trailer load of water every three days.”

Zea wrote that he was part of “The Mud Out Team,” which typically cleans out the mud left in the homes after flooding recedes.

“In this instance there was no flood, but the wind from Hurricane Isaac had ripped some of the shingles off of the roofs and tore the siding off of the outside of their trailers letting the rain come in. This caused a great amount of mold to be on the ceilings and walls of their homes,” Zea stated.

Roof repairs

So the team’s job was to tarp damaged portions of roofs and to tear down some walls and ceilings. In some instances, volunteers used a mix of bleach and water to sanitize walls where damage was not too bad.

“Also, because there was so much water that came into their homes, we had to throw out most of their furniture, beds, dressers, children’s clothes and toys, tear up their carpets and padding, and if there was tile on their floors we also had to tear that up,” Zea wrote.

On the second day of the project, “We came to a house where the wind had torn parts of the roof off and water had poured in the rooms. The lady had called and told us she had already fixed lunch for us.”

That meal to feed 11 include home cooked chicken legs, gumbo, jambalaya, salad, soda pop, water, and “ice cream for everyone,” Zea stated.

“There was a large tree that had been blown down. We cut it up in about 90 minutes. Then, everything had to be taken out to the street so the county could pick it up. The lady got on her 4- wheeler and pulled it out for us,” Zea wrote.

On another day, the crew traveled a few miles, where men used a roll of tarp 125 feet long and 25 feet wide to cover roofs on two trailer homes. From there it was on to another trailer four miles away where a woman had the crew removed damaged furniture and other items and carry it about 300 feet up the road for refuse collection.

“There had been a break-in at another trailer, so the glass from the storm doors was scattered all over the floor. There was a lot of clothing from her and her children. The front window had been broken out also,” Zea wrote.

Each late afternoon, the group would go back to the church to help pass out food and water to those in cars lined up near the church.

“They got one case of water for every two people in their families, plus food of different kinds,” Zea stated.

Zea is no stranger to volunteerism and good works. He served as a Baptist minister for 40 years, has been involved in mentor programs.

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