They’re the foods many of us associate with thankfulness this time of year.
But after a month of working in storm-ravaged Louisiana following Hurricane Ida, crews from Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., equate some new flavors with gratitude: red beans and rice, sticky chicken and jambalaya.
They’re just a few of the dishes that Houma, Louisiana, resident Jessica Bergeron, mother of two, prepared for them. For all 71 of them. For three straight weeks. For no compensation but appreciation and smiles. Without electricity. Without a functioning kitchen. Without any motive but kindness.
Bergeron says her father set the example for her. “My dad would always feed people. If something happened to your family, or you lost your house or there was a hurricane, my dad was the one who was out there cooking, and my mom helped him all the time. … He would always make extra, and that’s just what he did.
“I wanted to do the same.”
Learning via social media that our linemen working nearby could use some good meals, her mission was clear. “We can’t let them go unfed,” she said about the men she would nickname her “Power Rangers.”
Making resourceful use of propane burners, a generator, the family budget and donations from friends, Bergeron selflessly fed our guys’ stomachs and spirits for two-thirds of the crews’ 30-day stay.
AECI General Foreman Mike Vint says the crews were so thankful to be on the receiving end of Bergeron’s delicious Cajun Pastalaya (jambalaya with noodles instead of rice) — and her incredible generosity.
“She had damage to her own house, but she put that aside,” Vint says. “She and her family just took us under their wing and took great care of us.
“She has got a big heart and just cares about people.”
Bergeron says the same is true of our linemen: “These guys came in knowing that they were coming in horrible conditions and didn’t mind it, and said, ‘Look, boots on the ground, we’re here to help.’”
And speaking of gratitude, that’s what we are feeling this month at Arkansas Living as we continue to share feel-good stories like this and as we celebrate a major milestone — 75 years!
We’re also overjoyed to welcome Nancy Meador, our new associate editor. Nancy previously worked for First Electric Cooperative in Jacksonville for nearly five years as communicators coordinator.
As the previous associate editor and as the newly appointed editor, I’m humbled to continue Arkansas Living’s legacy. The staff and I welcome your story ideas, photos, restaurant suggestions, recipes and feedback always.
Saluting our veterans (like my father, uncle and father-in-law) and wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving!
Jennifer Christman Cia
Editor, Arkansas Living