Local group brings 150 gallons of gumbo to tornado-hit area of Ky.

Published 6:01 am Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Some of the victims of the Dec. 10 tornado that tore through six states were recipients of “This is Home Cooking.” On Sunday, Jan. 9, Lake Charles Toyota and volunteers from the “This is Home Cooking” initiative, gathered at the dealership and prepared 150 gallons of chicken and sausage gumbo. A week later, a group made the 11-hour trek to Mayfield, Ky., to deliver what was cooked the previous Sunday, plus another 50 or so gallons added to the mix during the week by local restaurants.

Phillip Tarver, Blane Bourgeois and Paul Pettifer were on their way home Monday after making the delivery to Mayfield when Tarver spoke with the American Press.

“One of the ‘This is Home’ board members, Blane Bourgeois, got in touch with some people from Kentucky after the disaster,” said Tarver, district 36 state representative and owner of Lake Charles Toyota. “One call led to another. He contacted us and we decided this was something we wanted to get behind.”

Before the pandemic, Lake Charles Toyota was using its resources to provide food at 150-175 cooking events per year — such as teacher appreciation and school fundraisers. Shawn Fontenot is the main cook, according to Tarver.

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“The people we met were in good spirits but the destruction was widespread,” Tarver said. “It was eerie. There were still places we couldn’t drive into.”

Tarver said he and other volunteers feel grateful for the opportunity to “pay forward” a semblance of some of the help Southwest Louisiana received after Hurricanes Laura and Delta in August and October of 2020.

Mayfield is the location of a candle factory that employed the majority of the town’s population. Tarver said residents there are dismayed by the news that the factory will take some time to rebuild. Some of the employees have been transferred to a nearby plant that will open soon.

Tarver and the group sought to encourage Mayfield residents by advising them to take one day at a time.

“It’s not going to be fixed tomorrow, but you’re going to wake up every day and see a little progress. We know that feeling,” he said.

Restaurants donating resources include Paul’s Rib Shack, Rikenjaks, Panorama Music House, Peaux Boys, Steamboat Bills, The Villa Harlequin and LuLu’s Lake Charles.

“This is Home” branding might be familiar to readers. The This is Home Festival is a non-profit organization that produces a yearly music festival in downtown Lake Charles that benefits the Southwest Louisiana Arts and Humanities Council. The last festival was held in October 2021.

The Dec. 10 tornado was categorized as an EF-3, the strongest and longest-on-ground to hit the state. Maximum wind speed was estimated to be between 158 and 206 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service. At least 90 people were killed.