Pelicans host sale of team items to benefit hurricane relief, an effort close to home in New Orleans

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

Twelve years ago, Pelicans season-ticket holder Chip DeLanzac and his entire extended family first evacuated to Houston, then settled temporarily in Dallas, in the weeks and months after Hurricane Katrina. “We were all in a state of shock. We were in a daze,” DeLanzac said of his family suddenly and unexpectedly being uprooted in a blink.

From that traumatic experience came a stream of indelible memories of his stay in Dallas, based on the generous reaction of locals.

“At church that Sunday, some of the people even offered us money,” said DeLanzac, whose family had only packed for a couple days as it evacuated New Orleans. “I said, ‘No, no, we just need some clothes to get by. We went to some restaurants where they wouldn’t take our money. When they found out we were from New Orleans, the manager came over and said, ‘Your bill is taken care of.’

“It was wonderful, to see that kind of generosity.”

On Tuesday night, DeLanzac joined other season-ticket holders and fans in participating in a cause very close to the city of New Orleans and the surrounding area: supporting American Red Cross disaster relief efforts. Inside the Saints’ practice facility in Metairie, guests purchased a range of items such as Pelicans jerseys, jackets, sweatshirts and socks, with the money raised benefiting hurricane relief, in response to recent devastation. Dozens of Pelicans employees volunteered their time at the event; Whitney Bank donated a mobile ATM for guests to use.

“The communities across Louisiana really understand what Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are going through right now,” said Jay Huffstatler, Chief Development Officer for Louisiana’s American Red Cross. “We’ve been through Katrina and similar catastrophic events. People in the community want to give back, and this is one way for people to do it. (The money raised) enables our volunteers to get on the ground and purchase life-saving emergency supplies that need to be distributed to folks who are really in need right now.”

Charity and community organizations in the Pelican State have seen an immense reaction over the past few weeks following Hurricane Harvey and other storms. Huffstatler noted that the state-wide American Red Cross has just over 2,000 volunteers, with almost 700 of those signing up in the past few weeks.

“They are people who want to go to Texas and Florida to help,” Huffstatler said. “It shows the willingness of the people of Louisiana to want to come out and help their neighbors.”

Tuesday’s event also featured a booth where Pelicans fans could donate diapers to the Junior League of New Orleans. The organization provides diapers for children from families who need them year-round, but also responds to emergencies in the region. Diapers donated Tuesday will go to families affected by the recent devastation.

“When a parent can’t diaper their child, they can’t send them to daycare or school, because you have to send six to eight diapers a day,” said Kathleen Ramsey, Development Coordinator for the Junior League. “The cost is so high that it can be quite a big chunk of income.”

Like Huffstatler, Ramsey has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from Louisiana residents, in response to what happened in Houston and other hurricane-ravaged areas this summer.

“We’ve been through the flooding and seen how long it takes to rebuild,” Ramsey said. “We’ve seen how people suffer in all different ways.

“We’ve seen a lot of tears (in recent weeks). Some of them have been ours. Because many of us have lived through Katrina and other storms. It’s really heartwarming to see how people that have been affected (in the past), and are aware of what’s happening now, respond so generously, and from the bottom of their hearts.”