RSF resident whipped up Hurricane Ida relief effort
Two trucks full of supplies shipped to Louisiana
Rancho Santa Fe resident Tammy Lambert heard about the destruction wrought by Hurricane Ida in Louisiana at the end of August.
Homes destroyed. Massive damage. Power outages. Drinking water gone. Temperatures up to 115. Suffering piled atop a pandemic.
That Tuesday before Labor Day, she met her husband, Byrnes, for 8 o’clock mass at the Church of the Nativity in Fairbanks Ranch..
“I turned to him and said, ‘I think we need to go to Louisiana,’” Tammy said to her husband, whose brother is a Catholic priest in Covington, La.
“My first thought was I have a van. Can I fill my van with water and drive it out there?”
Byrnes Lambert didn’t think it was a good idea. He had a better one.
He turned to a friend sitting nearby and asked if her husband, Chris Miller, owner of trucking company JLE, to loan one of his drivers and a flatbed to be loaded with donated supplies to take to Louisiana.
“Literally within two hours, he said, yes, and said the truck would be here on Thursday,” Tammy Lambert said. ”So like two days later, the truck was here in the parking lot.”
Thus began a project promoted by the Lamberts and Nativity, including parents and staff at its private school, that would be embraced by the surrounding community.
Thanks to the effort, many families in and around Luling Parish on the west bank of the Mississippi Rover and one of the hardest hit by the catastrophic storm, have received much-needed assistance.
The Holy Family Catholic Church in Luling led by Father Steve Dardis took the lead role in organizing distribution of the materials arriving from San Diego. Dardis said, “It was a big deal and we were able to connect with several communities here and other churches of various denominations to make sure that all those supplies, really within a week, were all at people’s homes. ...
“It was just a lot of support and almost as quickly as it arrived, it was where it needed to be probably within a 45-minute radius of where the hurricane hit hardest.”
Initially, the Lamberts weren’t sure what kind of response they would get. They, with the assistance of church members and parents of students at the church’s school, started spreading the news of the project and urged families to bring supplies to fill up the truck when it arrived.
Meanwhile, Tammy Lambert reached out to family friend Philip Rivers, the former Chargers’ quarterback who now lives in southern Alabama where he coaches high school football.
Rivers, one of the most popular players in Chargers history, talked by remote to KUSI-TV reporters about the project and urged the community to pitch in. Lambert also was interviewed.
The publicity resulted in such an outpouring of support that the JLL truck quickly overflowed. Evan Rhodes of FasTrucking then donated one of his semis and a driver.
Donations included 30 generators, which were in high demand because of the widespread power outages, as well as chain saws, wheelbarrows, push brooms, shovels, cleaning materials, bottled water, canned goods, beef jerky and plastic storage containers.
Tammy Lambert estimates the trucks brought at least $40,000 worth of materials to the beleaguered residents.
Nativity students Fiona Sweeney, Mia Riguero and Chloe Miller set up a lemonade stand in the center of Rancho Santa Fe and pitched in more than $300 to the relief effort.
Tammy Lambert also credited the success of the effort to local residents and parents Wendy Guscette, Carol Merriman, Natasha Odero and Julie Mayer for helping with collections the entire weekend; Brody Seiber, a junior at Cathedral Catholic High School and his parents Kim and Mike Seiber who helped shop for tools and bins; and many local businesses who provided support.
A go-fund me page, https://gofund.me/c30c3c95, has generated about $20,000 to date and is still seeking donations to offset costs and provide continuing help.
Tammy Lambert arranged for dozens of T-shirts printed up with a symbol and the word “Mercy” on the front and a list of dozens of donors from families to businesses printed on the back.
“We just got the wheels moving really quickly and I feel like it was a work of God,” Tammy Lambert said. “I always say it really wasn’t me. It was like God just gave us the inspiration and then every door was opened like it was meant to happen. Everyone we talked to said, ‘Yes I’ll help.’”
To assist with the ground effort, Tammy Lambert flew to Louisiana with four of the family’s seven children.
At Dardis’ church in Luling arrived an armada of about 40 pickups sent by churches of various denominations in the region.
One woman there called the big trucks from California the “wheels of Jesus,” Lambert said.
“It was one little idea from one generous heart and it became contagious,” Dardis said.
He said Luling area residents were astonished at the magnanimity focused on them by some folks in California 1,800 miles away. Most of the national attention on Louisiana is directed toward New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
“Seeing that the world and the country was paying attention to them meant a lot,” Dardis said. “That sense of fraternity among so many within our great nation and the camaraderie there came up big in this moment.”
Louisianans weren’t the only ones to benefit from Operation Mercy. The mission to help others in great need galvanized churches, schools and families around Rancho Santa Fe in a common effort of selflessness, Nativity Principal Marc Thiebach said.
“It was interesting to see how a relatively small community was able to rally around the effort,” he said. “It was more than successful; it went way beyond what I thought was possible.”
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