David Meaux, whose trailer home got flooded due to Hurricane Ike, is one of 200 people calling the Sunbelt Lodge home.
Meaux, who loves to cook, decided one day that he was tired of eating sandwiches out of an ice chest. He wanted to cook a hot meal. Instead of cooking just for himself, he cooked extra and used some of the government’s $500 food stamp money to pay for the extra food.
That first night, 12 flood victims living in the hotel ate pork chops in rice and gravy.
In a matter of days, word spread throughout hotel about his hot meals and it was up to 40. Today, some 200 people now eat his meals.
“Some people say I have a big mouth because I love to talk,” said Meaux. “I may have a big mouth but I also have a big heart. I wanted to do something to help these people. I love to cook.”
Meaux now has help from hotel residents, who help prepare the meals and clean up afterwards. They begin at 2 p.m. and end around 9 p.m.
The residents have eaten gumbo, jambalaya, barbecue, rice and gravy, and red beans and rice.
In the beginning, Meaux said he was paying for everything until his $500 food stamp card ran out.
But just as it ran out, his luck changed when an Abbeville resident saw someone was cooking in the parking lot at the hotel and turned in to see what was happening.
That person was Pastor Henry Arceneaux of the Community Chapel Church in Abbeville.
He met Meaux and discovered what he was cooking and using his own money to buy the food. Arceneaux asked Meaux what he and his church could do to help.
On the spot, he handed Meaux a $200 check to help pay for meals.
Arceneaux and his small church of 25 got involved. The pastor was able to get donations from other churches out of state to help pay for more meals.
He also was able to secure a trailer that contains a freezer, and a tent with a large barbecue pit.
“It is a great thing that David is doing,” Pastor Arceneaux said. “He needs help, however. It gets expensive each night to cook for 200 people. I am calling on the community of Vermilion Parish to help feed these people whose homes were flooded. These people who are living here are from Erath, Abbeville, Delcambre. They are local residents who need help.”
Abbeville Mayor Mark Piazza is also asking his community to help feed the residents at the Sunbelt. Donations can be brought to city hall, he said.
Of the 200 people, 45 are children. Pastor Arceneaux said before Meaux cooked, many families were having to eat ham sandwiches every day because they could not afford to pay for a hot meal.
“I hate to see those children continue to eat out of an ice chest each day,” Arceneaux said.
Phyllis and Carl Sexton live on Pine Street in Abbeville. Their home flooded for the second time in three years and are having to stay in the Sunbelt Lodge.
“He put a lot of smiles on people’s faces with his cooking,” Phyllis said.