“This is the worst it has ever been,” said Gwendolyn Bernard, a lifelong resident of St. John the Baptist Parish in Louisiana. Her home, one of seemingly too many to count, suffered extensive damage due to Hurricane Ida’s intense winds and the unprecedented flooding it brought to the Parish. “It’s been a long difficult road.”
More than eight months after the category 4 storm battered Southeast Louisiana, the 67-year-old is still living out of a trailer in her front yard due to what she says is a lack of building supplies and reliable labor.
“This is still the story of this community,” said Iman Montgomery, Community & Stakeholder Engagement for Marathon Petroleum, who, like many others from the Garyville refinery, is also still recovering from the historic storm. That’s not stopping Montgomery and her peers from helping Bernard and many others who are still in need.
“I just feel a big sense of pride and almost a sense of duty to be here,” said Montgomery, who recently helped kickoff a large-scale rebuilding effort in her hometown, LaPlace, Louisiana, along with dozens of Marathon Petroleum employees and hundreds of volunteers from across the U.S.
“It truly brings me great joy to witness the level of compassion and empathy that each of you is bringing to our community, and I am very appreciative of that,” Montgomery told a crowd of more than 1,500 in early April at New Wine Christian Fellowship, the staging ground for the recent rebuilding effort in St. John Parish with the nonprofit organization Eight Days of Hope (EDOH).
“We wish we weren’t needed, but we are humbled to help this community as they continue on the long road of recovery,” said Stephen Tybor, President and CEO of EDOH.
EDOH coordinated approximately 1,500 volunteers from more than 40 states to come to southeast Louisiana in partnership with Marathon Petroleum and the St. John Long Term Recovery Group to provide free home repairs to 150 families in the area in just eight days. This recovery effort was possible through a $400,000 grant that Marathon Petroleum provided to the St. John United Way and the Eight Days of Hope (EDOH) organization to pay for building materials.
Crews spent the eight days repairing roofs, clearing debris and painting homes damaged by Hurricane Ida, including Bernard’s home.
“Oh, they were awesome, very good. I can’t thank Marathon and Eight Days of Hope enough for everything they have done for me,” said Bernard.
The April grant is in addition to the nearly $2 million already donated by Marathon Petroleum, which is part of the Garyville refinery’s “Celebrating Resiliency & A Brighter Tomorrow” initiative that began soon after Hurricane Ida hit in August 2021.
“This is home for our Garyville refinery; our employees work and live here,” said Michael Henschen, Vice President of Refining at the Garyville refinery. “Together, we’re able to make our community stronger, and this includes us proudly continuing to support our community through grants that will benefit this part of southeast Louisiana for years to come.”
In addition to our disaster relief support, our local investments support workforce development, coastal restoration, parks, youth and community center program improvements, and other projects across the parish.
Volunteers from the Garyville refinery also recently helped plant hundreds of Cypress trees in wetlands just west of New Orleans, funded through a $25,000 grant from Marathon Petroleum for the Pontchartrain Conservancy’s swamp restoration program focused on restoring Louisiana’s wetlands that create a natural storm buffer from hurricanes.