FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A Jay County chef with connections to Louisiana is working to get help to his native part of the country, following the destruction of Hurricane Ida. Chris Smith, of T’ophers Place, Cajun and Creole Restaurant in Portland, has been using the restaurant’s facebook page in an effort to collect supplies and track down pilots.
Smith moved to Jay County with his son in 2019. He experienced Hurricane Katrina first-hand and told WANE 15 ‘it hurts’ to see the destruction from a distance. According to Smith, he was homeless at one point in his life and feels for those who have lost homes or possessions in the storm.
“There’s nothing wrong with asking or reaching out to people and seeing if they have the resources, are they willing to help,” Smith said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. I would do it for my neighbor here, I would do it for somebody else in another state. It’s just the way I am. A lot of southerners are like that. We love our neighbors and we try to help everybody when we can. We put all our differences aside and jump in and see what we can do to help another person lift another person up.”
According to Smith, supplies like clothing, generators and drinks, like water and juice are needed. He said if he was living in Louisiana, he would have evacuated ahead of Ida’s arrival, but knew some didn’t have an option.
“Some people are disabled, They don’t have nobody who can take them somewhere.,” Smith added. “All the hotels are full. People’s houses are full the further you go inland. And quite honestly, to be brutally honest, a lot of people are scared that that their stuff will get looted. That was a huge, huge huge problem in New Orleans after Katrina. The crime, the looting. Some people, their home was still standing, but they went in there, they had nothing in the upper levels of their homes. Nothing. It’s pretty heartbreaking.”
Smith has been sharing the efforts of United Cajun Navy as they work to rescue people in the hurricane affected area. He also suggested the non-profit organization as being a potential spot for financial donations.