Bourgeois family celebrates move-in day

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
Verna Bourgeois (left) embraces Brandi Brignac outside her new home.

The story of Dean and Verna Bourgeois, a St. Amant family who due to the 2016 flood was forced to withstand primitive living conditions at their home for two-and-a-half years, struck the heart of Louisiana.

The couple earlier this year wrote to Kiran Chawla at WAFB in Baton Rouge and explained their problem. Chawla visited them and produced a news story that would change their lives forever.

"This is why I got into journalism," Chawla said Wednesday, June 26 at the official move in ceremony outside Dean and Verna's brand new furnished home. "This is why I do what I do, and to see that excitement on her face it honestly makes everything worth it."

The couple was living underneath their carport, cooking and showering outside. They battled with disability, mosquitoes, and a snow storm. Now they have a fresh start.

Local chicken farmer Brandi Brignac saw the news story and rushed to the family's aid. She dug into her relationships with Jon Bridgers, founder and CEO of the Cajun Navy 2016 and others. With luck and a tremendous volunteer effort from friends and family, Brignac pulled off what may only be described as a post-flood rescue mission.

Brignac, who's sacrificed 12-16 hours-a-day on the project since March 25 described the feeling as, "so much relief." She said she's going to take a couple weeks to be at home with her family and mentioned her son returning from the Youth Challenge Program.

"I'd like a little time to spend with the kids because there's been a lot of 'go time.'"

Brignac has had many more people reach out to her organization "Boots of Hope 4:13," which is not 501(c)(3) yet during the course of helping Dean and Verna.

"The amount of help that's still needed is astronomical, and it's very difficult to say 'no' to those situations," she said. "We don't have federal funding and grants yet, so we depend on sister organizations that work side-by-side. A lot of that, unfortunately is income-based. There has to be certain criteria and stuff. As a human that makes me feel incredibly bad to not be able to pick up every one of those cases and do it."

As a member of Cajun Navy 2016, Brignac also has her eyes on hurricane season and her work with New Life Missions' supplies drives.

"You know the Cajun Navy doesn't keep track of hours," Bridgers said. "It's just kind of connecting the puzzle pieces and getting it all done."

Two particular known hurdles were clearing trees for new power lines to be installed, as well as a long handicap ramp installation. The ramp project was spearheaded by Scott Freshwater, a Cajun Navy 2016 member.

"Trina and Edwin Edwards played a huge part with the trailer itself, and we just did the legwork," Bridgers said. "It's just unbelievable all the people that donated on Facebook for different things. They got a new start, and that's what matters the most."

"We appreciate everything, everybody has done," Dean Bourgeois said. "Everything has come true, and miracles do work if you get the right people behind you."