Hurricanes have left Terry Fontenot’s hometown screaming for recovery help

LAKE CHARLES, La. — It was a bittersweet trip home for Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot and his wife, Tanya, natives of Lake Charles.

ExploreTerry Fontenot a product of strong family roots in La.

The city was shredded by Hurricane Laura in August 2020, followed by Hurricane Delta roughly six weeks later, then a powerful winter storm followed by a flood in May.

The city, with a 2020 population of 78,656, is the fifth largest city in Louisiana (after New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and Lafayette) and the 453rd largest city in the United States.

Lake Charles has been slow to recover. Many residents, including both sets of the Fontenots’ parents, are still living in sheds, camper trailers or bunking with relatives while their homes remain uninhabitable.

Terry and Tanya Fontenot want to do what they can to help their hometown battle back from a string of weather emergencies.

Roy and Jacquetta Fontenot, Terry’s parents, were excited that they might be able to make it back into their house in three months. Tanya’s parents, Mike and Josetta Prudhome, are still waiting for things to sort out while living in a big shed on their property, while waiting for the house to be reconstructed.

“When I’m talking to Tanya, it’s really hard because I haven’t really done anything to give back,” Terry Fontenot said, while giving an unofficial tour of the city recently. “I haven’t done anything to help. We have to find a way to do that.”

Tanya Fontenot, who was driving on the tour, pulled up to the elder Fontenot’s house.

“That’s the house my parents live in now,” Terry Fontenot said.

’'They are not back in it yet,” Tanya Fontenot said. “It had a lot of roof damage. Almost a year, they’ve been out of it.”

The house didn’t have a blue tarp over it, unlike several of the houses in the neighborhood.

“They fixed the roof,” Terry Fontenot said. “It’s just the inside. They have re-done the Sheetrock and the floors. They just fixed the roof so it wouldn’t rain in there anymore.”

The good news was the roof was fixed.

“Because the (roof) fell through with the hurricane,” Tanya Fontenot said.

The Falcons general manager was raised in modest red-brick, four-bedroom, three-bathroom house (for a family with seven children). The parents purchased the new home when Fontenot was a junior at Tulane.

In addition to helping the parents, the Fontenots want to help the youth of their community.

“Me and my wife kind of talked about it, and our passion is for the youth and helping them get everything they need,” Fontenot said. “But I feel like Oak Park (Middle School) might need a little help.”

Terry Fontenot went to Oak Park from the sixth grade through the eighth grade. Tanya went to another middle school that fed into LaGrange High School, where the two sweethearts met.

“I think when it really hit me,” Fontenot said. “... I told my wife this a couple of years ago, and I feel kind of guilty, I’ve always ... all I do is work. From when I was in high school, my head is down. I’m trying to work my tail off to get to college. Then you’re in college, my head is down to try to be able to take the next step. Then I’m with the Saints, head down and working.”

That approach to work has caused Fontenot to miss some family events.

“(There have been) weddings and funerals that I’ve missed, like Tanya doesn’t ever ask me,” Fontenot said. “If something is going on, and it’s going to affect football, I’m just not doing it. I love my family, and I love my children.”

Helping the city recover and doing some charity work for the children will complete Fontenot’s circle of life that includes God and his family.

“I look at it like it’s a circle and everything is in there,” Fontenot said. “Hey, football is important, my faith and my family, that’s above football, but that’s all interlaced. I’m going to have close relationships, that’s why my family is close to (the Falcons facility in Flowery Branch), in Braselton next to us. My son is going to be at the facility a lot. All that is involved.”

But almost a year after Laura, the landscape in Lake Charles is still dotted with blue tarps and billboards for lawyers offering to fight insurance companies.

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