South

Louisiana

140619_HER07_38Tonia Pence

Age: 53
Hometown: Luling
Cause: Hurricane reliefs

In 2002 Pence, a single mother, sighed with relief when her daughter graduated college. Now she could leave her job in mortgage finance to work in the nonprofit world. When Katrina struck in 2005, Pence began holding meetings for survivors unsuccessfully vying for relief dollars. By the time of the BP oil spill in 2010, followed two years later by Hurricane Isaac, the number of people served had swelled from 20 to 400. Residents who lost their homes and their living learned how to tell their stories, talk to legislators, and hold them accountable. In February 2013, the community focused on a collective pool of federal recovery dollars totaling $29 million — some of that undistributed for eight years. They got the funds released within months, and many recipients, previously unqualified because they had no credit history, were able to benefit.

Says Pence:

There are resources out there, but people don’t know how to ask. That’s the benefit of advocating – getting people to understand.”

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