Monthly Archives: August 2010

Fostering and Building Advocacy Relationships

After a missed flight connection and a 5 1/2 hour drive from Houston, Bayou Grace Environmental Outreach Volunteer Coordinator, Diane Huhn, is glad to be back on the bayou after an exciting advocacy trip to Washington, DC. Diane joined twelve fellow Gulf Coast advocates involved in the Equity and Inclusion Campaign to advocate for issues related to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster ranging from short- and long-term ecosystem restoration to ensuring proper outreach to limited English proficient residents to adequate support for on-the-ground non-profits to a fair and transparent claims process.

Advocates met with a wide array of federal officials and congressional members including staff of Senators Kerry, Carper, Landrieu, Boxer and Dorgan and Representatives Cao and Melancon.  The team also met with staff from the Council on Environmental Quality, Department of the Interior, Department of Commerce, FEMA, Homeland Security, Department of Energy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the office of the Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. And as a former Michigander, Diane was particularly excited by a guest appearance by the second most senior member of the House of Representatives, John Conyers, during a meeting with House Committee on the Judiciary staff. It was indeed a busy few days as the team also held briefings for the Natural Resources Committee and Energy and Commerce Subcommittees.

The Equity and Inclusion Campaign is a nonpartisan coalition of local, regional and national activists, organizations and community members advocating for structural solutions to confront persistent poverty and inequity across the three Gulf Coast states of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. The vision for the Equity and Inclusion Campaign is to establish sustainable Gulf Coast communities characterized by economic, social and environmental fairness. The Campaign is working to effect systemic change so that all people are included, valued and empowered. The Equity and Inclusion Campaign’s primary activity is coordinated policy advocacy at the federal level to ensure an appropriate level of resources and attention for an equitable and inclusive Gulf Coast recovery. The Campaign has sponsored multiple legislative trips to Washington, D.C. where scores of community members and advocates including the Bayou Grace team have met with Members of Congress, Administration officials and their staff.

Bayou Grace continues to serve as an guiding voice in the Equity and Inclusions’ Environment and Infrastructure Working Group and looks forward to future advocacy opportunities with the campaign. If you would like to get involved in the Equity and Inclusion Campaign, please visit www.equityandinclusion.org.

Dinner on the Bayou

Bayou Grace Community Services hosted a community spaghetti dinner on July 21 at the Ward 7 in Chauvin.  Approximately 100 community members and volunteers gathered for a night of food, information, and community unity.   “I’m so glad y’all did this,” remarked Mrs. Etta Dupre, a long-time Chauvin resident.   She went on to describe how thankful she was to have a reason to get together with others in her community during the current disaster.  She expressed her appreciation for the kindness she felt while talking with Deacon Elaine, one of Episcopal Community Services’ pastoral volunteers present at the dinner and how thankful she felt when reading one of the many cards sent by people from across the country.  These cards expressed care and concern for people in our communities impacted by the recent oil drilling disaster.

Rebecca Templeton, Bayou Grace’s Environmental Outreach Coordinator, welcomes everyone to the community dinner.

Ben Walker, Terrebonne parish’s assistant Emergency Preparedness director, presented information on the parish’s emergency hurricane plans and preparations.   Mr. Walker also answered questions about various topics such as evacuation plans and shelters for people with special needs, evacuation assistance, and the possibility of oil coming into the community as a result of hurricane storm surge.  

Ben Walker speaks about Terrebonne Parish’s emergency preparedness plans.

The delicious spaghetti dinner was followed by an assortment of homemade desserts prepared by Mrs. Debbie Thibodaux’s “local ladies’ dessert crew”.

The evening ended on a high note as tickets were picked for door prizes.  Door prizes were donated by local businesses like Pat’s of Chauvin, Wolfe’s Pharmacy, and Bayouside Florist.  Wooden planters created by Bayou Grace’s generous volunteers were also given as door prizes.

Bayou Grace’s volunteer coordinator, Diane Huhn, presents a lucky community member with a planter made by generous volunteers.

Bayou Grace is working to establish a regular routine of community dinners in each of the 5 Bayou Communities, with the hope of helping community members have a positive community experience in a time that has proven to be challenging.  This is another example of Bayou Grace meeting its mission of Hope and Sustainability in the 5 Bayou Communities.

What’s New at Bayou Grace?

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Reaching Out!

Project LEARN’ GED class was treated to a special presentation about coastal land loss and erosion recently. In response to the presentation given by Bayou Grace’s own Rebecca Templeton, the class decided to write a letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, the person President Obama charged with creating a long-term plan for Gulf restoration.

The class worked diligently to construct a letter that highlighted a simple plan for recovery for our coast from information shared with the class at Bayou Grace’s presentation and “real life’ observations from their own experiences. The letter was to be mailed to Secretary Mabus.

Before the letter could be mailed, Secretary Mabus announced an open forum to discuss recovery efforts. Ms. Margaret, one of Project LEARN’s students agreed she would attend the forum and try to read the letter aloud to the Secretary. She arrived early to the event and was one of the first in the audience to address Secretary Mabus. She not only read the letter to the forum but also added a few additional observations from her own life and later was able to hand deliver the letter to Secretary Mabus. He even signed a copy to certify its receipt.

Bayou Grace and Project LEARN continually engage the community into advocacy and action towards coastal land loss and erosion and the students of the Bayou Grace site did not disappoint. Others speaking that day supported several of the suggestions and points raised by Ms. Margaret and the students. The letter urged the Secretary to utilize sediment redistribution, adopt the State’s Master Plan for recovery, and rely on the countless studies and research already done towards recovery efforts rather than stall the recovery efforts by waiting for new studies to be compiled. Ms. Margaret and the students of Bayou Grace decided they were tired of waiting and took action. Won’t you join them in their efforts to advocate for coastal land loss and recovery efforts?

Click below to watch Ms. Margaret addressing Secretary Mabus.