Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Mayor of River Center

Story and photos by: Jay Bonafede, American Red Cross

“It’s the Mayor of River Center!”

That’s how shelter manager Bill Slotter greeted River Center shelter resident Cornell Legarde when starting his overnight shift at the Louisiana flood shelter in Baton Rouge. When talking to Cornell, it doesn’t take long to figure out where his nickname came from.

“You gotta keep a smile, no matter what you’re going through,” Cornell says he tells his fellow shelter residents. “At the other end of the rainbow, you’re gonna smile again anyway.”

It would be easy for Cornell to complain. The storm initially hit another area, and he thought he would be safe. When the water started rising at his home, he had to evacuate quickly, and has been staying at the River Center for nearly two weeks. Despite the dark times, Cornell’s sunny attitude is contagious among not only his fellow residents, but the volunteers working at the shelter as well.

“You see people working together as a team,” he says. “A non-denominational church came in on Sunday. They told us this was like a small church, everyone needs to come together. That’s kind of what the Red Cross provides, and that’s why I love it.”

Red Cross shelter manager Bill Slotter (right), a volunteer from Philadelphia, calls resident Cornell Legarde “The Mayor of River Center”. Cornell spreads a positive attitude throughout the Baton Rouge shelter for people evacuated after massive flooding affected much of Louisiana. “You gotta keep a smile, no matter what,” he says.

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