LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - With the freeze and many in Southwest Louisiana vulnerable to the cold, two local women decided to take action. Hard to believe exactly one week ago Roishetta Ozane and Dominique Darbonne connected on Facebook, and since then have helped nearly two thousand people across Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.
“She [Ozane] had commented somewhere that she was working with HealthyGulf and that if people were in need of assistance getting out of the cold this weekend to give her a call,” Darbonne explains. “I sent her number to a few people and then I started forwarding requests to her.”
After realizing the overwhelming need in the community both Ozane and Darbonne started using their own funds to place the most vulnerable to the harsh winter weather conditions in hotels for a week.
“We kept getting calls, and people kept messaging us,” Ozane says. “Hey, there’s a guy sleeping in a dumpster, there’s a family in a car in Walmart’s parking lot, so it kind of started snowballing.”
Darbonne says they eventually realized they needed help of their own.
“We decided to start making Facebook posts and doing Facebook lives letting people know what we were doing and who we were helping, and that we needed help.”
The community responded. Within one week, they raised 30 thousand dollars in donations they received through CashApp, Paypal, and Venmo. All of those donations went to help nearly 2 thousand people, 300 of those in hotels for a week, clothed, fed, and away from the cold.
Darbonne says the support has been overwhelming.
“We’re just in awe of all the people that we’ve been able to help and every single day has been like a parable. We start out in the morning with five loaves and two fishes, and we’re wondering how we’re going to meet all these needs. What we’ve been experiencing is community. People reaching out a hand and being willing to help in spite of their own circumstances and not really caring why the other person needs help.”
They’re calling themselves the Vessel Project. Even after this week is over, Darbonne says they’re going to continue helping the most vulnerable in the community.
“We have also been sending people money for firewood. We paid a deposit for someone so that when they leave the hotel, they have housing security. We’ve sent money to help people with medical issues. We’ve paid phone bills. We’ve connected people with resources in their area.”
For more information on The Vessel Project, click HERE.