Core values in action: Helping our communities recover after Hurricane Laura

Robert Schneckenburger, September 10, 2020

We don't just talk about service at Hancock Whitney - we spring into action immediately. We get our hands dirty. Our core values of Commitment to Service, Teamwork, Personal Responsibility, Strength & Stability and Honor & Integrity are not just words we hang on the wall. They are the foundation of our commitment to serving the people who call our communities "home."

When Hurricane Laura made landfall as a Category 4 storm on August 27, 2020 in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, it was the 10th strongest hurricane to hit the United States and the strongest to hit Louisiana since 1856. Laura's winds ravaged not only the Louisiana coast, but the entire western half of Louisiana and Southeast Texas. 

As we watched Laura enter the Gulf of Mexico, we knew that undoubtedly our financial centers, clients, associates and communities in our Gulf South footprint would be affected. With Laura's crosshairs directly on the Texas/Louisiana border, our teams sprang into action behind the scenes. We've done this before, and unfortunately we'll do it again. We learned during our recovery and rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina, the Baton Rouge floods of 2016, and hurricanes Harvey and Michael that what communities without power need the most is hot meals, ice and cash. We immediately began calling on some of our restaurant clients across Louisiana to get them lined up to cook meals. We staged our mobile financial center as close as we could without putting it in danger of damage, and we began to call ice vendors to setup trucks for distribution. We had no final destination yet, but we had a plan. 

IMG_4627-3Our Lake Charles associates are ready to serve from the mobile financial center within 24 hours of Hurricane Laura's landfall

On the morning of August 27, we knew the Lake Charles area was "ground zero." We had five financial centers in that immediate area and several in Southwest and Northwest Louisiana and Beaumont without power. Hancock Whitney is known to be the last to close and the first to open - a testament to our leadership and our dedicated associates who are always striving to provide 5-star experiences for our clients. This was no exception. Within 24 hours of the storm's landfall, we were able to open a mobile financial center at our Ryan Street location and within 48 hours, most of our ATMs in the area were operable. We had three locations open for Saturday banking in Lake Charles - providing much needed access to cash in an area where electronic transactions to buy goods could not happen. We were able to serve our clients and the community at 100 percent of our financial centers in the Lake Charles area within a week of Hurricane Laura’s landfall. We had 4 out of 5 open within 4 days.

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Associates and family members from across the footprint began to show up to help. On Friday, August 28, they served the first hot meals and distributed the first bag of ice from the Ryan Street Financial Center. In the first two weeks, more than 25,000 hot meals were distributed from that location. We've had over 200 associates and restaurant clients serve burgers, barbecue chicken, pulled pork, sausage po-boys, red beans and rice, jambalaya and more. More than 84,000 pounds of ice has been distributed. But the story does not stop there. 

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Commercial Banker Kevin Latiolais and CEO John Hairston grill burgers for the Lake Charles community just hours after Hurricane Laura's landfall.

To diversify our efforts, Hancock Whitney wanted to make a monetary contribution to those who will help the community in other ways. On September 9, we made a $30,000 contribution to the United Way of Southwest Louisiana so that they can provide the people of the Lake Charles area with immediate needs like gas, groceries, pet food, and other essential supplies. 

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Hancock Whitney associates present a check to the United Way of SW Louisiana for $30,000.

To sustain the community's long-term needs, we made a $20,000 contribution to Rebuilding Together Acadiana. Rebuilding Together has helped communities rebuild following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and subsequent floods. With the help of our funds, Rebuilding Together will work to assess the damage and prepare to rebuild for our neighbors affected by Hurricane Laura.

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Hancock Whitney associates present a check for $20,000 to Rebuilding Together 

We have listed some resources on our website for clients and residents in the FEMA Designated Disaster Areas who are in need of recovery assistance. Please visit www.hancockwhitney.com/laura for information.

Unfortunately, we're only at the beginning of what will inevitably be a very long story for so many families in Southwest Louisiana. There is still great suffering and many are in tremendous need of help. Most residents will be without power for an extended amount of time as the entire system needs to be rebuilt. Many are battling insurance companies and are displaced from their homes and jobs in unfamiliar cities with little hope. We encourage anyone who can to volunteer, give, pray and most importantly to remember the communities that are suffering.