It’s been nearly 15 years since Hurricane Katrina permanently uprooted Orlando Magic point guard D.J. Augustin '06 from New Orleans, but the city he was raised in still has a special place in his heart.
Much of Augustin’s family remained here after the hurricane. One of his cousins is a nurse who works in the emergency room at University Medical Center. The coronavirus pandemic has meant long hours and stress-filled days for medical professionals, especially in New Orleans, where the virus has killed 57 people.
Augustin said he knew he wanted to help the people who were on the front lines fighting the coronavirus. So this week, he made a donation to Krewe of Red Beans that will provide roughly 2,200 meals for doctors, nurses and others who work at New Orleans hospitals in this time of crisis.
“Some of those doctors and nurses go the whole day without eating,” Augustin said. “They’re using their time to save lives.”
Augustin contacted University Medical Center to figure out the best way to feed their employees. That’s how he got connected with Krewe of Red Beans, which is using crowd-sourced financial contributions to purchase meals from restaurants around the city to feed hospital workers. Devin De Wulf, the founder of Krewe of Red Beans, is married to a doctor who also works at University Medical Center.
“Right now, the people who are fortunate and not living paycheck to paycheck, when you see somebody step up like that, it’s pretty awesome,” De Wulf said. “And it’s what we have to do collectively as a country right now because this thing is not going to be an easy battle.”
Krewe of Red Beans members got the ball rolling with an initial donation of $500. They have since raised more than $44,000 through their GoFundMe page. De Wulf said the best way to contribute is to send a Venmo payment to @redbeansparade or a PayPal donation to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Friday, Krewe of Red Beans planned to deliver close to 1,000 meals from 14 restaurants. They have purchased food from Capulet, Coquette, Marjie’s Grill, Heard Dat Kitchen and Live Oak Cafe, just to name a few.
“It’s actually killing two birds with one stone,” Augustin said. “You’re helping the doctors, the nurses, everybody on the front lines. You’re helping them eat and get through their day. At the same time, you’re helping local businesses make money during these tough times by cooking. It’s an all-around win for everybody.”
Augustin, who won two state championships at Brother Martin High School before finishing high school in Houston, is trying to stay in shape while the NBA is on hiatus. He runs on the treadmill and lifts weights in his garage. NBA players are no longer allowed at their teams' practice facilities, so it can be difficult for them to keep their basketball skills sharp.
“That’s the tough part, not being able to work on your basketball skills,” Augustin said. “You could pretty much do anything else as far as staying in shape. But the basketball part of it is tough. I still hope we come back and finish the season.”
Augustin is enjoying this time because it allows him to see his wife and three children more than he normally would during the season. They live in Orange County, Florida, where stay-at-home orders went into effect Thursday.
Katrina's impact has given Augustin perspective on living through a crisis. Right now, he knows he is one of the lucky ones, and he is doing what he can to help back home.
“Katrina taught me that you can have everything one second and lose it all in the blink of an eye,” Augustin said. “You’ve just got to be grateful for the things you do have. Your family. Your health. The small things in life. The material things don’t matter. This is teaching everybody that lesson right now, I believe.
We’ve just got to stay strong. Stay safe. Do the right thing. Listen to the government. Stay home. Be smart. And we’ll get through this like we did through Katrina. We bounced back and rebuilt the city and came back stronger. I know it’s the mindset everybody from New Orleans has. We’ll get through these times and get back on our feet."