Lillie Mae Cosse is well-known in Braithwaite, LA. She had lived all of her life in this small, south Louisiana town, working her way up from housekeeping and janitorial jobs to operating her own business. She owned a small home that she shared with her grandson Cody. Having never learned to drive, Lillie Mae relied on Cody for transportation to doctor’s visits and the grocery. In her retirement, she worked preparing food at a daycare center near her home; cooking was Lillie Mae’s favorite hobby. Cody worked on the nearby Mississippi River ferry, and helped out financially.
On August 29, 2012, Hurricane Isaac moved inland over south Louisiana and swamped Braithwaite. Recovery should have been easy for Lillie Mae, as she had both Homeowners and Flood insurance on her home. Unfortunately, Lillie Mae learned one of the pitfalls of having a mortgage – if a property is damaged due to disaster, the mortgage company may decide that it is not in their best interest to carry a mortgage in the damaged area. Lillie Mae’s mortgage company took all of her insurance proceeds and used them to pay down her mortgage, rather than allowing her to use the money to rebuild. She was left with several thousand dollars remaining on the old mortgage, and no money to rebuild her home. She even had to wait for a charitable organization to tear down what was left of her flooded house.
The residents of Braithwaite sought out any assistance available to help their beloved Lillie Mae. NOLAH heard about the effort, and began raising funds to help build a new house for Lillie Mae. Unfortunately, as the 1st anniversary of the storm approached, Lillie Mae suffered a heart attack that was attributed to the stress of recovering from the disaster. Mennonite Disaster Services stepped in and offered to build a home, but needed financial resources to pay for materials, appliances, etc. NOLAH contributed the funds that had been raised to the Mennonites effort, and Lillie Mae finally had her home! She and Cody returned to Braithwaite, and Lillie Mae regularly cooks for visitors in a new kitchen designed to accommodate her physical limitations due to arthritis.