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I Heart Mac & Cheese working to help Hurricane Ida victims

I Heart Mac & Cheese team members and customers are helping their hurricane-ravaged neighbors in Louisiana.

Owner Devora Torrence said the Port Arthur location, 3350 Jimmy Johnson Blvd., would have a trailer next week to collect diapers, wipes and cleaning supplies. Then, on Sept. 11, the trailer will be brought to Louisiana, where there is a need for the items.

Donations can be made from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Brooke Viltz, left, came up with the idea of collecting diapers and wipes for hurricane victims. Teammate Chree Leday, right, is helping the effort. (Mary Meaux/The News)

Those making a donation can receive a percentage off their meal or a gift certificate for a percentage off the next time they visit.

The idea was the brainchild of employee Brooke Viltz.

“I was actually at home watching the news (when I got the idea),” Viltz said. “And I know that when we got hit with Harvey, it took everything, so watching people lose everything triggered the need to help them.”

Chree Leday, Viltz’s sister who’s also an employee, said there are a lot of mothers who need diapers and wipes because even if you had these items before the storm, you’re now back on ground zero. Plus diapers and wipes are something that’s always a need.

The Port Arthur sisters are also college students.

Tips during certain time periods when other fundraisers aren’t going on will be donated to help hurricane victims. (Mary Meaux/The News)

Viltz, a graduate of Wilson Early College High School, is a student at Lamar State College Port Arthur and Leday, a Memorial High School graduate, is a student at Xavier University of Louisiana, which is located in New Orleans.

I Heart Mac & Cheese often takes part in fundraisers to give back to the community. Last year, Torrence said, they collected donations for Lake Charles, which was hit hard by Hurricane Laura.

Torrence saw the devastation there first hand and said one of the biggest requests was for diapers.

She also saw the need earlier this week with Louisiana evacuees staying at local hotels. If a person displaced by the Louisiana hurricane is staying in the Port Arthur area, they can receive 10 percent off a meal.

“We, in this area, have already experienced something like this,” Leday said. “We know what it was like to start school with two outfits because you lost everything even after you went back-to-school shopping.”

Viltz said those in Louisiana helped Texas for Hurricane Harvey.

“We are literally right next door to them so lending a helping hand wouldn’t hurt,” Viltz said.

Leday is currently displaced as the university was still without power as of Friday. She and her roommate were able to leave before the storm made landfall. And with no power means all of the dorm students’ groceries went bad. She is keeping up to date with communications from the university.

There will be another fundraiser in the coming weeks, Leday and Viltz said.

A link or bake sale will be held Sept. 11 outside Bruce’s Market Basket in Groves. These donations will be going to Houma, Louisiana.

And check out their Facebook page to see other chances to give back.