MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — As major flooding hit lower Louisiana in August of 2016, Damien Callais and some of his friends couldn’t stay home and watch.
“We decide to go to a parking lot in baton rouge. We heard a rumor of a bunch of volunteers meeting to go out and rescue. When we got there, there was about 40-50 people in the parking lot and no boats.”Damien Callais, volunteer in 2016
One live Facebook video and millions of views later they started the Cajun Navy 2016 Facebook page. Now it’s a non profit.
“When I did the live video, I put my phone number on the video. I never thought it would get millions and millions and millions of views. And the reason we really started the Facebook group to channel the information that was coming in because my number was on that video. This person was stuck here, this person had a boat here.”Damien Callais, volunteer in 2016
If the name sounds familiar, there was a cajun navy back when Hurricane Katrina hit, but it was a pretty loosely organized group that didn’t stay together. The Cajun Navy 2016 is different.
“After the floods of 2016, we formed a 501c in order to better organize ourselves financially and be able to accept donations. We wanted to make sure that we were 100 percent transparent. We didn’t want in any way shape or form anyone profiting or anything like that.”Ben Husser, Southeastern Louisiana division leader for Cajun Navy 2016
The faith-based group has been invited to the White House and has earned national recognition for responding to disasters.
“Hurricane Florence, for example, we had people coming from all over the Southern states to that. And once they come to one call to service a lot of time they want to end up joining and it’s just amazing to watch how quickly it can grow.’Mike Dunn, Alabama division leader for Cajun Navy 2016
The message behind the group stays the same through the years.
“It’s just neighbors helping neighbors, really at the end of the day that is what this is all about. It is about being of service to others. The actual name itself of course it was started in Louisiana and with the boats, the navy I guess fit perfectly.”Damien Callais, volunteer in 2016
“I had no clue that something so simple as a call for help four years ago would turn into what it is now. Our organization now is involved in missing boaters, we’re involved in missing person cases. Responding to tornadoes and helping cutting trees down. I would have never in a million years thought wed be where we are now, especially given the fact that this was started by a group of people who just cared.”Ben Husser, Southeastern Louisiana division leader for Cajun Navy 2016
They say if you have a boat, mainly a surface drive boat that is able to operate in shallow water and want to help, look for them on Facebook.