Golden Meadow Church feeds dozens of families impacted by oil slowdown

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Unemployment is up in the Louisiana oil patch and with no relief in sight some churches are stepping in to help.

Though any help is appreciated, most just want their jobs back.

They are signs of an industry on the ropes.

Dozens of oil field supply boats tied up along the Intracoastal Waterway near Golden Meadow with no where to go. Keeping boat captains like Kenny Mejia dockside, after a lifetime on the water.

Mejia lost his job, piloting big vessels like these, in 2015, unable to find comparable work.

"There's a big lack of it. I've been putting in applications from one end of this bayou to another," said Mejia.

Pink slips are going out across Louisiana's oil patch.

"Two weeks ago, November 7th," said Alex Pierce. He no longer performs quality control on oil drilling equipment.

"That's all I know. I've been doing it since I graduated high school," said Pierce.

It was his second layoff in three years.

"They said y'all have a meeting to go to. Went to a meeting and now I don't have a job," said Pierce.

At Golden Meadow's First Baptist Church, the cupboard's getting a bit bare.

"You can tell we're running low because people are calling in need, but we give them what we can," said Chick Vegas, with First Baptist Church.

Church members do a monthly food distribution here for people impacted by the oil slowdown, and business is unfortunately good.

"Last year we started with 90 families and now we are at 150," said Vegas.

The food helps, but it's no substitute for big money jobs gone dry.

"Hah. things have tightened up a great deal. At one point I was grossing $100,000. Unemployment I was making a thousand a month and I've exhausted most of that," said Mejia.

The boats didn't just start appearing here overnight. They've been tying up for months now. Captains like Mejia have been out of work for over a year and though unemployment numbers are up slightly, he says they don't truly reflect the despair that's out there.

"There's nothing in the foreseeable future and that's scary," said Mejia.

The Houma area leads the state in unemployment with 2,300 lost jobs this past year and for many it's personal.

"My son was working in Fourchon and he lost his job seven or eight months ago," said Vegas.

Many hope for help from a new president who has promised deregulation.

"I hear it won't be an immediate thing. I hear it will still take time for rigs to come back," said Mejia.

Alex Pierce wants to stay on the bayou near family and the lifestyle he loves.

"Oh yeah, I love home. Can't leave home. Got to stay in Louisiana," Pierce said.

He's now applying for work as a fireman but many others are moving on.

Second Harvest Food Bank is sending tons of food supplies to the depressed oil patch each month. If you want to help, especially during the holidays, they would appreciate it.

If you would like to help, visit their website

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