On Sept. 11, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation distributed $500 cash cards to 262 Ascension Public Schools employees whose homes were damaged by the flood. Using the district's employee impact survey, 450 affected employees were invited to voluntarily participate in the Sunday event at Gonzales Primary School.
"We actually were in school for four days before the rains hit," said Jackie Tisdell, public information officer, Ascension Parish Schools. "We were out for 11 days. There were over 450 employees who were affected and are coming back to work and serving those students when they're dealing with their own personal problems and their own homes that are impacted right now."
Teacher Sarah Melancon, who received one of the cash cards, said the donation is helpful because she was out of work for so many days.
"The water was high for so long," Melancon said. "It's just going to be really helpful to take that burden off so we can worry about other stuff."
Assistant superintendent, A. Denise Graves, who was transitioning from her role as interim superintendent just before the rains hit, said that she was pleased by the foundation's donation to school employees.
"This organization has brought so much joy - we had every one from teachers to support personnel [here] - this had a significant impact on their day and on their life," Graves said.
Displaced teacher Frankie Briggs already has plans for her cash card and advice for anyone feeling complacent.
"I'm going to use this money to buy something for my house to help me get back into my home," Briggs said. "You can't get too comfortable - you know in your comfort zone - I had been in this house for 30 years and it never flooded. So just never get too comfortable because something can happen to you. You never know - unexpectedly, something will happen to you."
To date, Tzu Chi has distributed $562,200 to 1,125 families at five distribution days around the Greater Baton Rouge area for flood victims.
"[Tzu Chi] really touched [the employees] in every way possible in such a wonderful and phenomenal way," Tisdell said. "[Tzu Chi] was also giving them a message of hope and a message of passing it on and paying it forward, and they all said 'I'm going to be teaching my children this - I'm going to be telling them about this.'"
The district has inquired about the possibility of a second distribution day for employees who were unable to attend the Sept. 11 event. No decision on that has been made a this time.