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In the literal wake of historic flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that has left at least 13 people dead and tens of thousands of families displaced and devastated, the moms of the community are stepping up, banding together, and leading efforts to help other parents and children.
Baton Rouge resident Caroline Borck, 34, and her husband Nathan were lucky: Their home was not flooded, though just a few miles away, her parents' house did flood. But Borck said she felt "so helpless" while stuck inside for days after the flooding with her three children, twins Jim and Eloise, 2, and Augusta, 7 months. "I couldn't get out and help, so I tried to figure out a way I could help from home," she told TODAY Parents.
"I cannot imagine having to leave my home with all my little ones," said Borck. "These sweet little babies rely on you to make sure they are safe, cared for, and loved, and I know as a mom I would go to any extent to make sure they feel that way."
Borck remembered reading about people setting up registries on Amazon after Hurricane Sandy. "I thought it was a brilliant idea and that it would be perfect for this situation," she said. "I want to make sure any families that have been displaced have the supplies they need to make sure their children are cared for."
She began compiling a list based on the requests and suggestions of her friends volunteering in the local shelters and at Louisiana Flood Rescue, a grassroots volunteer organization that agreed to let Borck use their warehouse, trucks, and members to help store and deliver the donations.
"Babies need formula, food, diapers, wipes, clothes, blankets, sippy cups," said Borck. "Breastfeeding moms need pumps and bottles and ways to store their milk. There is just so much that goes into taking care of babies, and families had to leave all that behind, and most lost all of it."
Borck posted the resulting Amazon registry on her Facebook page, where it was shared over 50 times within the first hour. As of this morning, she has more than 900 orders for the flood victims, purchased and sent by people all over the country.
She will be delivering the donations with the help of Louisiana Flood Rescue — but not her children. "It's hard enough just trying to herd them into daycare, the house, or a restaurant!" she said. "Plus, I don't think the shelters need any more chaos!"
The reaction to her registry, Borck said, is "amazing." She has also created a site to help coordinate volunteers and donations for areas affected by the flooding. "It takes a village to care for children for sure, and I'd like to be a part of that to help those that need it right now," she said.
Baton-Rouge area parenting bloggers Audrey Hayworth and Harmony Hobbs have also found themselves on the front lines of relief efforts.
Hobbs, a mother of three, noted that not only was her home spared, but also her parents'. So many of the flood victims also have family members who were flooded out too, so the support network of family that would usually be available is not there.
"The needs are so vast everywhere I look, it's completely overwhelming," Hobbs told TODAY Parents. "But because I don't have to worry about gutting my own home or replacing shoes for my children, I've focused my efforts on helping other mothers, one family at a time. This easily could have been us. I never want to forget that."
She began very locally, helping one of her son's best friends and his family by collecting clothes, raising money, and replacing items they lost in the flood. With help from neighbors, she has also been sorting and washing clothes soaked in the floods so they can be worn again.
"Sometimes it can be frustrating to be a mother whose time and resources are limited because of small children, but there is ALWAYS a way that mothers can help," Hobbs said. "Whether it's through connecting people to the right resources online or washing clothes for a family who doesn't have a washing machine or simply dropping off plates of food, mothers have the unique ability to see needs and meet them."
Meanwhile, Hayworth, a mother of two sons ages 9 and 11, has been working as a board member of the Junior League of Baton Rouge to deliver 150,000 diapers to local families in the past week alone and has developed Amazon wishlists for local schools that lost everything in the flood. Her home did not flood, but her husband's parents' home did flood.
"What many fail to realize is that many people evacuated New Orleans after Katrina and made their home here in Baton Rouge," Hayworth told TODAY Parents. "These are families that lost everything almost 11 years ago to the month, rebuilt their lives, livelihoods, new possessions, everything, and then lost it in a matter of hours again."
Hayworth wants to focus on helping her local schools replenish their supplies and uniforms so that students can go back as soon as possible. "Children need this structure, and the schools can also provide two hot meals a day and allow parents to focus on gutting and rebuilding their homes," she said.
Neither Hayworth nor Hobbs, like Borck, have experience in large-scale natural disaster recovery, but they all said they have been moved by the generosity and the heart of their community — especially other mothers like themselves — to do whatever they can. "I have been humbled and impressed by the ability of mothers, both in Baton Rouge and nationally, to connect and take care of one another," said Hayworth. "The things that are getting done are getting done by mothers. Need a breast pump because yours was lost? Post it to Facebook and another mother will loan you hers."
"Louisiana mamas are an unstoppable force," agreed Hobbs.
You can help: In addition to Caroline Borck's Amazon registry and site, Audrey Hayworth and Harmony Hobbs recommend the following sites and wishlists for those hoping to help the victims of the Baton Rouge floods: