CHICAGO (CBS) — For the first time, President Barack Obama saw the devastation in Baton Rouge with his own eyes, as he toured the flood damaged region. He reminded victims of their country’s support, and also appeased critics who said he should have come  sooner.

“I want the propel of Louisiana to know  you  are not alone on this. The whole country will continue to support you and help you until we get folks back in their homes and lives rebuilt,” Obama said.

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Tens of thousands of homes are damaged in a disaster that spans 21 parishes. The historically massive floods, dumping more than two feet of water in some areas, claimed 13 lives and damaged over 60,000 homes. Cleanup is slowly going.

CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports on how some Chicagoans are helping the victims recover.

“We’ve met people who said they were rescued on air mattresses or in large tarps or buckets,” sad Joy Squier of the Red Cross Northern Illinois.

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Squire is among 25 Chicago area Red Cross volunteers now in Louisiana — they’re collecting and distributing supplies. One truck alone handed out over 400 warm meals.  So far, Americans have contributed barely a third of the 30 million dollars the Red Cross estimates it will need for clean up.

“This is going to be a very expensive and long term recovery,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow Push Coalition.

While offering prayers of support, Jackson surveyed the damage in Louisiana over the weekend, recognizing the scope of the crises may have been overshadowed by large national events. Now back in Chicago he’s collecting a truckload of supplies to reach those in need. 

“You have the Olympics the Presidential campaign and in the meantime human misery and suffering can not be ignored,” Jackson added.

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The Red Cross says not nearly enough donations are coming in to cover the cost of recovery. They are asking for the public’s financial support. In the meantime, Jackson is collecting supplies ranging from toiletries to first aid kits to diapers and baby wipes.  You can drop those off through Saturday at Rainbow Push headquarters at 50th and Drexel.