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Helping Vulnerable Older Adults Rebuild After a Disaster

Local group uses AARP Foundation grant to help hurricane victims.

When Hurricane Ida slammed into the Louisiana coast in August 2021, it pummeled communities across the state, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Vulnerable older adults struggled in its aftermath, as they often do when natural disasters strike.

AARP Foundation moved quickly to provide help through local organizations that know best the needs of their communities. One grant went to support the work of SBP, an innovative Louisiana-based nonprofit that aims to shrink the time between disaster and recovery for families affected by natural disasters.

spinner image Frederick Lonzo poses with daughter Leah and granddaughter Tehlyr outside his rebuilt home.

SBP initially used the funds to rapidly rebuild 10 homes for 14 older adults with low income living in Southeast Louisiana. Six of the rebuilt homes were “FORTIFIED,” meaning their roofs and construction were reinforced against high winds, hail, hurricanes, and tornados. When the next storm hits, these homes will be fully protected. With the rebuilding of another two homes under way this past spring and significant grant funds remaining, SBP is on track to far surpass its initial goal of rebuilding 12 to 15 homes.

One of the older adults SBP was able to help was Frederick Lonzo, a World War II vet who turns 99 this year. Frederick served his country in the most dangerous circumstances as an ammunition runner and delivery driver from 1943 to 1945. Upon returning from the war, he became the first Black union representative at Boeing.

Frederick and his wife of 49 years bought their home in New Orleans in 1969 and raised eight children there. Frederick continues to live there today. After the hurricane severely damaged his home, he used his small savings to hire a contractor to repair the damage. Halfway through the job, the contractor disappeared, taking the materials, tools, and the deposit Frederick had given him.    

Luckily, SBP was able to quickly rebuild Frederick’s home with funds from the AARP Foundation grant and support from the World War II Museum. SBP installed new flooring, insulation, drywall, and electric wiring and repainted the whole house. They also helped him secure an additional $2,720 from FEMA. On May 14, SBP hosted a “Welcome Home” party for him and his family, complete with the presentation of an American flag from the U.S. Navy that now hangs on his porch.

Marian Chauvin also received assistance from SBP after her home sustained severe damage from Hurricane Ida. A longtime resident of Houma, Louisiana, Marian lives with her three daughters, two young grandsons, and husband, Trent. During Hurricane Ida, her roof partially collapsed, the floor was damaged, and her home’s ceilings and walls fell down. After the Chauvins took on debt to pay for a new roof, they reached out to SBP for help.  

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To make matters worse, the family was living in a FEMA trailer at the back of their property when Marian’s daughter, Shelbie, was diagnosed with a type of cancer that had an extremely poor prognosis, so Marian took on the responsibility of caring for her two young grandsons. After learning Marian’s story, SBP immediately began work to help her recover. They provided new insulation, drywall, and flooring throughout the house and repaired the porch and exterior of the house.

On March 11, 2022, SBP gathered a group of friends and neighbors to officially welcome the Chauvin family back home.

spinner image Marian Chauvin cuts the ribbon on her rebuilt home with members of the SBP team.
Frederick Lonzo poses with daughter Leah and granddaughter Tehlyr outside his rebuilt home.

AARP Foundation can’t prevent the next disaster from happening. But our grants can help the most vulnerable older adults bounce back from the next calamity more quickly and with greater ease than they otherwise would. And that’s certainly something worth striving for.

Learn more about how AARP Foundation Grants Program helps older adults to recover from natural disasters. 

Read more stories about how our programs have helped people find hope, and about the volunteers who give so much of themselves to help others.


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