Hurricane Ida stories: A long-time volunteer reaches out for help

No one can quite recall who first met Sister Regina Marie, but she’s been part of SBP for years, bringing thousands of volunteers to worksites and raising thousands of dollars through her network — pouring her energy and enthusiasm into everything she does.

SRM shows off the hammer celebrating her fifth year of volunteering with SBP.

Sister Regina Marie lives with three other Ursuline sisters in a two-story brick home off a busy New Orleans street. The sisters are all in their 70s and 80s and have intentionally positioned themselves within a neighborhood to be part of that community.

When Hurricane Ida loomed, Sister Regina Marie put her SBP preparation training into practice and made sure the group was equipped with flashlights, water, batteries — all the recommended items. Then they settled in to ride out the storm. Sister Regina Marie expected the strong winds and the power outages likely to come, but she did not expect the ceiling to cave in the bedroom next to hers while the storm raged at 4 a.m.

SRM and Sister Ginger scrambled for buckets and, in lieu of the tarps in their no-longer-accessible outdoor shed, they used shower curtains to help stave off the water. Hurricane Ida had earlier pulled shingles off the roof; water poured into the exposed attic, which eventually poured into the bedroom. “It’s like someone turned on all these little faucets all at once,” SRM remembers. Their goal was to protect the sisters on the floor below them — who are less mobile — from any water. They did the best they could and then tried to return to sleep.

But sleep didn’t come easy. Sister Regina Marie reached out to SBP.

For a woman who has done so much for many clients, volunteers, AmeriCorps members and staff, SBP was finally able to give back and stabilize this community of sisters by providing a generator, water, ice, muck-and-gut services, and a tarped roof.

At 82, Sister Regina Marie is a fierce advocate for SBP’s work — for the people we have served over the last 15 years and the survivors now just beginning their recovery journey after Ida. Her home will need repair work that will require the sisters to temporarily relocate, but SRM has a plan and is no doubt already trying to figure out how to get more volunteers down to support our recovery work in southeast Louisiana.

On surviving Ida: “It’s one thing being a volunteer and teaching other volunteers to give. Our Ursuline motto is service in action. You know the day will end and you can come home and get a shower. That’s one thing, but going through it night after night and you’re living it day in and day out, you get up in the morning and feel like a truck ran over you. But you shape up and get going.

People are what’s important. We don’t need a house and all these frills. Just the basics. The most wonderful thing is friends, neighbors. That’s what matters.

SBP is actively recruiting volunteers for our Hurricane Ida recovery work in southeast Louisiana. We’d love to have you. Sign up here.

Bringing discipline & innovation to create social impact. Shrinking the time between disaster & recovery for at-risk communities. sbpusa.org