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After Hurricane Laura, med student enlists colleagues to help hometown

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Courtesy of Russell J. LedetBy KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

(LAKE CHARLES, La.) — Shortly after Good Morning America introduced a former security guard-turned-medical student on the front lines of the pandemic, Dr. Russell Ledet stepped up in the face of another crisis to help those in need after Hurricane Laura.

Following the storm’s wrath on his hometown, Ledet quickly got in touch with his team from the 15 White Coats, a nonprofit organization, to assemble help for the hard-hit, but resilient community.

“I reached out to the managers of the 15 White Coats and said, ‘We got to do something.’ So we got together $1,500 and raised another $3,500 and gave out all 5,000 of those dollars yesterday with the intention of raising more today,” Ledet told ABC News on Friday.

“I’m going down there today, but obviously I need a lot more help,” he continued. “The community of Lake Charles is truly a melting pot. We work together, we are a blue-collar community and we do everything we can to try to help each other and this is a time where our resilience will be tested, but as the 15 White Coats say, ‘resilience is in our DNA’ and I know we’ll bounce back.”

Laura thrashed through Louisiana with wind gusts of 137 mph in Lake Charles leaving a path of destruction in its wake and killed at least six people, but now the storm has been downgraded to a tropical depression as the city works to assess the damage.

Hurricane Laura remnants heading toward Northeast

Ledet spoke with Nic Hunter, the mayor of Lake Charles, who told him the city is in need of tarps, chainsaws, generators and “a lot of water because our entire water plant is destroyed.”

The U.S. Navy veteran with a Ph.D. in molecular oncology from New York University and now second-year MBA-MD student at Tulane University School of Medicine and A.B. Freeman School of Business said he has since got in touch with his family after the storm.

“I was finally able to talk to my dad but it was only a few minutes because reception was terrible,” he said. “I’m doing everything I can, losing a lot of sleep, but I’m okay with that because my city needs a lot of help.”

Ledet doubled down on the calls for help and highlighted the work he will do to collect and distribute donations.

“We need to help families in the city. I’m giving out of my personal money as well as from the 15 White Coats because they need help,” he said adding that he will be there with some of his med school classmates “to clean up the streets and help whoever we can, try to help in whatever way we can.”

“People can help by going to the15whitecoats.org and hit the donate button and earmark them all for hurricane relief for Hurricane Laura,” he said of how to help directly. “We’ll make sure that 100% of those donations goes straight to the people and city of Lake Charles as well as surrounding areas because many of the surrounding areas have been affected, like DeQuincy, Louisiana, where my wife is from.”

Ledet also said that one way to get involved from a distance is to send bottled water to 2701 19th St., Lake Charles, Louisiana, where he will be helping out.

“There’s a big parking lot right next to my dad’s house and he’s willing to let people send whatever they can there, but mostly donations can come through the15whitecoats.org,” he reiterated.

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