By Michelle Graff
Scott Berg, pictured here in a green baseball cap, employed the use of a friend’s boat to rescue a Lee Michaels employee from her flooded south Louisiana home following the recent rainstorms that dumped feet of water on the area. (Photo taken by Sylvana Cline, courtesy of Chad Berg)
Baton Rouge, La.--Over the course of a few days, an unnamed storm dumped 31.39 inches of rain on Watson, La., 27.47 inches on Brownfields and 26.26 inches on Monticello, National Weather Service data shows.

A little perspective on just how much water that is: It’s more rain than some U.S. cities get in an entire year, and it’s triple the total amount of rainfall that poured down on south Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina.

The rains caused widespread flooding, claimed 13 lives, destroyed tens of thousands of businesses and left just as many with no place to go.

Now south Louisiana is in need of help, and the state’s jewelers association wants to make sure members of the industry aren’t left out, creating a fund through the Baton Rouge Area Foundation for donations.

20160831 LA-floodingAnother picture taken by Sylvana Cline and sent to National Jeweler by Chad Berg shows just how high the water rose in some south Louisiana neighborhoods.
Established in 1964, the foundation has come to the aid of Louisiana residents in the wake of other tragedies, including Katrina and the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Following the floods, a number of companies have started charitable funds through the foundation’s Employees 1st program. By donating through the program, companies don’t pay taxes on contributions and employees who receive the aid don’t pay income tax on it, said Louisiana Jewelers Association President Chad Berg, of Lee Michaels Fine Jewelers.

To donate money to those in the jewelry industry via the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, go to

Berg said at Lee Michaels, which has two stores in Baton Rouge plus stores in Shreveport, Lafayette and Metairie, they have 15 employees whose homes were flooded.

He said his brother, Scott Berg, who heads the Baton Rouge market for the family-owned chain and is president of the American Gem Society, found a friend who had a boat in order to rescue one Lee Michaels employee from her home.

His tale is just one of many emerging from this devastated region.

“Everybody,” Chad Berg noted, “has a story to tell.”

20160831 Armentour-floodingIn the back of Armentor Jewelers in Abbeville, La., the water level reached as high as 39 inches, as shown here with a ruler measuring up to a box that was damaged in the deluge. “Until it happens, you don’t realize the despair and the devastation and the heartbreak,” of a natural disaster, Eric Armentor said.
Pattons Fine Jewelry, which has stores in Baton Rouge and Alexandria, has four employees who lost everything.

Eric Armentor, of Armentor Jewelers, is being forced to shut down his Abbeville store after it was flooded with more than three feet of water. “All of our showcases and displays were damaged beyond use,” he said. “We’re not going to rebuild this store and restock it.”

Armentor, whose father opened the first Armentor Jewelers store in 1939, said that prior to the storm, sales were a little soft at the Abbeville location, and they were considering closing it down to concentrate on the other two stores, in New Iberia and Lafayette.

Now, that is a foregone conclusion.

He said most of the inventory was saved, so they are going to run a short liquidation sale and just close up after that, dividing any inventory that doesn’t sell between their other two locations.

“To try to go forward here’s just not going to work,” Armentor said.

“It’s a little disheartening. We’ve been here 28 years.”

Then there’s Stuller.

The largest supplier to the U.S. jewelry industry, Stuller is headquartered in hard-hit Lafayette, where nearly 22 inches of rain fell, according to the National Weather Service, which records rainfall at the regional airport there.

While the company’s facilities were not damaged, it did elect to suspend operations for one day, Friday, Aug. 19, for the safety of its staff, shipping all orders the following Monday.

The manufacturer and supplier told National Jeweler that about 90 of its approximately 1,400 employees in Lafayette lost either a home or a car in the flooding. Stuller is now accepting Visa gift card donations in $50 increments, which employees can use for food, home improvements, rental cars or other needs.

The company also is accepting checks made out to cash, which it can use to purchase gift cards.

“This has been a trying time for many here at Stuller and in our community. We thank you for not only your contributions, but for supporting our Stuller family,” said the company’s vice president of human resources, Jennifer East.

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