Josh Gray dribbles against Miami guard Kendrick Nunn

Josh Gray launches fund for hometown of Lake Charles after Hurricane Laura devastation

by Jim Eichenhofer

New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Gray feels like one of the fortunate ones – his Lake Charles, La., home escaped major damage from Hurricane Laura last week, sustaining broken windows and a partial roof collapse, but the structure is mostly intact. That’s in contrast to many of his friends and neighbors in the city of 78,000 people, who’ve witnessed the complete destruction of their properties.

Hurricane Laura slammed the area Aug. 27, causing 19 deaths and major destruction as a Category 4 storm. An LSU player from 2014-16, Gray is a native of Lake Charles, located 205 miles west of New Orleans.

“I tell everyone, the pictures (on TV or social media) don’t do it any justice,” said Gray, who appeared in two regular season games for the Pelicans in 2019-20 and was one of the G League’s best players. “The city is completely destroyed. It’s heartbreaking to see these families who worked all of their lives for these beautiful homes, the things they have, and within 24 hours, it’s all taken away from them. It’s heartbreaking and devastating.”

Gray has established a GoFundMe page to accept donations to help with recovery efforts in his hometown. On Aug. 26, the 26-year-old was anticipating riding out Hurricane Laura, but left the city immediately with family members when Gov. Edwards issued a mandatory evacuation order, based on the storm’s shifting path and forecast. Gray returned on Friday to assess the scene, seeing destruction everywhere in the neighborhood, but relatively minor damage on his land. Numerous trees snapped and fell on Gray’s half-acre property, but none landed on his house.

“I was telling people on my Instagram how blessed I am, because a lot of people in my family and my friends went back (home) to (only) sheet rock and wood,” Gray said. “Their homes are completely gone. They lost everything. So for me to go home and my home is still standing, I’m blessed. My home and my house, I will focus on that later. That’s minor compared to the families and my friends who lost everything. I’m using my platform and the connections I have to try to raise money and help these families out as much as I can.”

Gray is currently operating his fundraising efforts from Houston, where he and his family will live temporarily until they can return to Lake Charles. He expects to be there for at least 1-2 months. In the meantime, in addition to whatever financial contributions people are able to make, Gray requested help Wednesday of a different kind, as his hometown begins the process of trying to rebuild.

“If people don’t feel comfortable with donating money, like I always tell everyone, prayer is the most positive thing on Earth,” the two-year NBA veteran said. “Prayer from people around the world will do more than any money.”

Gray added that people can help Southwest Louisiana communities by donating a wide range of items, including water, dry food, generators, hygiene supplies, diapers, fans and clothes, among other products. On Wednesday, the Pelicans and Saints announced a $500,000 donation to Hurricane Laura relief efforts.

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