By Gary Vallery, EAA 554690
Established in 1980, EAA Chapter 614 has been part of the Louisiana and Rapides parish community serving both the flying and general public for 40 years.
Like so many EAA chapters, we have enjoyed many of the fruits EAA offers and challenges us to partake in. From aircraft restoration projects, to Young Eagles flights, to twice yearly fly-ins, our group of folks have always been there each and every time they were needed.
Perhaps our biggest claim to fame is the first Saturday of the month breakfast we host. Here, both the flying public and those relegated to driving have for years come through our doors and enjoyed the beautiful clubhouse and spacious covered deck sitting on Buhlow Lake and Pineville Municipal Airport. Our clubhouse is unique with its waterfront property sporting a seaplane runway on one side and a paved asphalt runway on its other side. Many a morning has been spent eating home cooked food while watching floatplanes and land planes alike playing in the Louisiana sun. We even have a local alligator named Elvis who is quite fond of biscuits!
On Friday, October 9, all of this changed as Hurricane Delta made its way up central Louisiana with record amounts of rain in its veins.
Because we are located on a lake, we have always prepared for rising water and a couple of times have seen close to 12 inches of it in the clubhouse. Fortunately, the original members and builders made preparations for this by raising the electrical wiring, putting ceramic tile over a concrete foundation, installing freezers, refrigerators, and other important equipment on raised platforms, and more. But on this date, Hurricane Delta had more to give than our clubhouse could take — almost four feet of water flooded in. This was well above the electrical wiring, the countertops, and the equipment. We lost everything that kept our club solvent. Everything, that is, but the spirit of our members. Hours after the water subsided the doors were opened and Chapter 614 members began the cleanup while others worked to assess the situation.
In short, our bank account can nowhere near cover the expense of rebuilding, and disbanding a chapter that’s 40 years old seems like cruel and unusual punishment. With what we know so far, it would be fruitless to repair without taking even more measures to ensure the clubhouse stays dry even in the worst of storms. Our second option is to relocate which is also expensive but may be best in the long run.
If anyone out there is willing to lend some financial support, we have started a GoFundMe page to see if the support is great enough to help make this happen. Donations can also be sent directly to EAA Chapter 614, Buhlow Lake Road, Pineville, LA 71360, and since we are a 501(c)(3) non-profit, your contributions are tax deductible.