In Louisiana, when we see our fellow man in distress, we can’t help fast enough. When you saw the devastation the August floods brought to our friends in Baton Rouge, it’s likely your first instinct was to help those in need. When tragedy strikes, it can be difficult to know how to tactfully help and how much is too much.

It’s important to remember that everyone copes differently. Some people throw themselves into repairs so they can get back to normal as quickly as possible. Others may be overwhelmed and won’t know where to begin. Still others could need time to process everything and may decline your well-intentioned assistance, so don’t take offense if your help is initially rebuffed.

Maria Pardo Huete, Junior League of New Orleans President, said, “Take your cue from the person suffering on how to help. Ask them specifically what they need so you can address their most pressing needs, bearing in mind it may not be things they need; it may be a helping hand.”

If you’re the person in need, remember that an offer of help can be rewarding for both you and the person helping. “People truly just want to help you and it can be very overwhelming but even if you just say, ‘will you answer the phone for me while I take a shower,’ ‘please pick up my children from school’ you will find your burdens lessened,” Maria said.

It’s also worth noting the need for help may not dissipate with time. Some of the hardest challenges don’t arise until several weeks or months have passed. That’s when speed bumps like insurance, contract work and especially emotional fatigue start to sink in. Erin Alexander Bolles, Director of Institutional Advancement with Catholic Charities and JLNO Sustainer said, “Our clients are no different than all of us…we all need to know we matter to someone, particularly during the most vulnerable moments in life.” It’s never too late to reach out and offer to treat a friend to lunch or help them paint a newly sheetrocked room.

Once the immediate threat has passed, the community bands together to continue the help on a larger scale. Consider volunteering your time to groups like the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity. “When someone comes to volunteer with NOAHH, they can expect a really fun day!” said Avery Strada, Director of Volunteer Services at the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity. “They will be assisting in building a brand new home in partnership with a NOAHH partner family or they will be working on a home repair project through our A Brush with Kindness program. With both opportunities, they will leave feeling a sense of contribution and gratitude.”

You may also consider donating to a local non-profit organization that will assist your community both now and in future recovery efforts. “Planned giving is one of the easiest ways to support a nonprofit. Leaving a gift in your will is a meaningful and lasting way to make a difference,” said Avery.

At the end of the day, the most important thing you can do for a friend or loved one going through a trau-matic event is to be there for them. That could be anything from bringing them a healthy portion of your famous jambalaya to offering some school supplies for their kids, or just sharing a cup of coffee and saying “I’m sorry you’re going through this.”

Here’s a helpful list of regional charities still assisting with the Flood Relief efforts:

• Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank –

• Catholic Charities Diocese of Baton Rouge –

• Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge –

• Baton Rouge Area Foundation –