River Parish companies give back

Several businesses within the Port District extended support to those battling COVID-19 in the River Parishes.

In good times and bad times, those who do business at the Port of South Louisiana have always stepped up to the plate, and the immediate action of several companies after the outbreak of COVID-19 only solidified that reputation further.

While it can’t be denied the industrial titans that line this 54-mile stretch of the Mississippi River provide quality jobs for thousands of highly-skilled, hard-working people and collectively represent a vital global economic outpost, the Port of South Louisiana is so much more than numbers on a spreadsheet. It’s a part of the community well after the whistle ends the workday, always looking for ways to give back and make an impact.   

For instance, Shell Norco formulated its own COVID-19 operation plans — an extensive effort that required deep cleaning the facility, social distancing, PPE and new modes of communicating both on-site and remotely so this essential business could keep running. Simultaneously, the industry leader also devised ways to use its reach and worldwide connections to help secure necessary equipment for those fighting the pandemic in the River Parishes and throughout Louisiana.

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The moment it became clear protective facial coverings and hand sanitizer were of immediate need, Norco Shell reached out to its industry partners and other Shell sites throughout the world to acquire KN-95 masks and gallons of hand sanitizer that were distributed to essential agencies through the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

“In some cases, such as acquiring 10,000 masks, it required frequent communication with our global Shell sites, along with practicing patience, as the world experienced shipping and transportation delays during the pandemic,” says Rochelle Touchard, Shell’s External Relations Manager in Louisiana. “When the products arrived, we made sure that they were delivered in a socially distanced manner. We couldn’t see the usual smiles of appreciation and thanks or even extend a friendly handshake, but we know the supplies made a difference.” 

Touchard says that Shell Norco provided gloves, masks and outerwear to St. Charles EMTs and engineered flame-retardant facial coverings for the nine local firehouses thanks to the help of a gifted local seamstress. Beyond equipment, Shell partnered with food pantries, local restaurants and non-profits like The United Way to supply hot meals to a variety of people.

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Shell also did what it could to empower locals — like science students at Destrehan High School — looking to come together and help the cause. Shell made a monetary donation to the Wildcats’ Robotics Team to cover supply costs to make thousands of facial shields using a 3D printer. The shields were distributed to emergency responders and healthcare workers in the River Parishes.

Like most things in the new normal COVID-19 days, the logistics of acquiring and distributing materials — or meals — can be a challenge. That’s where knowing and understanding your community and employees enters the scene, Touchard says.

“Good communication and good relationships, over the years — not just in times of crisis — make phone calls and conversations not only easy, but also a pleasure. We all know we can count on each other, and if we asked a certain restaurant to recommend and deliver a meal at a specific time, we knew we could rely on them as a true partner.”

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The Valero Refinery in St. Charles also quickly joined the fight against COVID. On April 1, Valero pledged $300,000 to support those in the New Orleans area affected by the pandemic. One-third of that money went to the Second Harvest Food Bank of New Orleans and Acadiana, while the rest of the donation went to organizations like the St. Charles Public School System, several Catholic charities in St. Charles, the Matthew 25:35 Food Pantry, and the St. Charles Council on Aging. Valero also pivoted to produce hand sanitizer, which was then donated to first responders and local government.

Finally, the group at G. Smith Motorsports (which falls under the umbrella of The Magnolia Companies of Louisiana) played an important supporting role in the First Responders Parade held in Luling on May 4.

“We have been so blessed by our community, in our personal and professional lives, so giving back to the community that raised us feels natural,” G. Smith Motorsports CEO Glen Smith says.

The event was put on by Natalie Wright and the team at One Team One Fight. G. Smith Motorsports provided 350 goodie bags for the first responders honored in the parade while staff from The River Room cooked up all the food.

“We saw not only all of the hospital staff starting and ending their shifts, but all of the Sheriff’s deputies, the EMS crews, and every volunteer fire department, from Bayou Gauche to Killona and all areas in between,” says G. Smith spokesperson Leigh Hallas. “There was a great sense of community, the amount of support and gratitude being shown was overwhelming and humbling.”

Paul Aucoin, Executive Director of the Port of South Louisiana, commends the local businesses, saying, “These companies have always been great partners to the Port of South Louisiana. Their actions have helped the community through the pandemic and are above and beyond the normal scope of business.  The River Region and The Port of South Louisiana are lucky to have them.”

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Above: Repurposing for good, Shell recycled old company uniforms to sew masks.

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Ochsner St. Charles Nurses enjoying
the parade.
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Sherrif’s Deputies of the K9 unit were honored at the event.
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Hospital employees gather
for the First Responder Parade.

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