An article on NU’s Web site brought her thousands of responses

To The Editor: I would like to give you an update on the National Underwriter online news service story you published on Sept. 8.

Because of the outpouring of support from Million Dollar Round Table members and other industry friends around the country, we received e-mail responses from 5,834 contacts after your article. (And, yes, our server did crash for one day!) We have already received well over a ton of shipped relief items and numerous cash donations to local charities and to the MDRT Foundation’s Matching Katrina Relief program. Boxes continue to arrive almost daily and are distributed to evacuees in local shelters and homes.

Our home and office has been a mini-warehouse as goods arriving are sorted and boxed again for distribution, but the work absolutely has been an act of joy. Nothing is wasted and no one complains about the additional volunteer time.

It is with a deep sense of appreciation and pride in our industry friends that I thank everyone who so generously supported the immediate needs of the Louisiana citizens ravished by Katrina. Relief efforts are getting better organized but still present a challenge to both recipients and caregivers. Since the destruction of the second storm, Rita, there are additional needs and most likely some of these same supplies will be sent to the western part of the state.

Baton Rouge has become a new city with a doubled population in just over a week. The infrastructure has suffered tremendously creating problems for everyone but is slowly catching up in some sectors. Some of the challenges we have:

==Schools have gone to 2 full shifts with second shift from 3:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Teach for America and other volunteers are in the city to help with the overload.

==Nonprofit agencies, such as Alzheimer’s, St. Jude and other cancer centers, mental health, etc., are struggling to take care of not only the evacuees but the staffing for the agencies that were destroyed in the New Orleans area.

==Hospitals are at max capacity with volunteer medical teams arriving each week from around the country to relieve local staffs.

==Healthy newborns and families either go to one of the shelters set up or home–there is no room with all the critical care babies.

==Traffic is a nightmare–over 200,000+ new vehicles and no one knows where they are going.

==Businesses are relocating to the area and snapping up almost every available space in town.

==For a while, the markets didn’t have fresh produce or meat. Most locals lost their food at home due to week-long power outages, so now they’re trying to replenish their supplies, feed a houseful of family/friends and evacuees plus all of those in the shelters. This certainly has improved, but there was another drain with the approach of Rita.

==Hotels, apartments are at 100% occupancy and the real estate market went crazy….some project the market went up as high as 40%. There is no room at the inn and most volunteers and students are looking for private homes to stay in.

==LSU and other colleges absorbed displaced New Orleans students and the Pennington Biomedical Center has given up space to the LSU medical school.

I know I could go on and on with the challenges, but unless you are here, I don’t think anyone has an idea of the impact in Baton Rouge. We were lucky enough to avoid catastrophic hurricane damage, but it will take a long time for this area to recover. I don’t think Baton Rouge will ever be the same….as this also can be stated for the entire Louisiana coast.

I do know with certainty that it was the local communities and faith-based organizations that were the first responders to this tragedy.

Thanks again for your article and the support that followed. I appreciate MDRT for being the catalyst in this effort.

Robelynn H. Abadie, LUTCF, CSA, RFC

Abadie Financial Services

Baton Rouge, La.