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On any other day, there is much to debate in Greater New Orleans. Do you prefer Blues or Jazz, Cajun or Creole, Beignets or King Cakes? But Monday is the one day of the year when the things that separate Louisianians no longer matter. The day belongs to the thousands of stories that have brought everyone in Southeast Louisiana closer together with each passing year.
Monday, Aug. 29 is the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Hurricane Ida (2021) roaring out of the Gulf of Mexico and into Louisiana history books. More than a million families saw their homes destroyed as a result of the two historic storms. And next week, each of those families will share their own story of survival, rebirth and purpose with the next generation.
That is especially true for Leroy and JaNell Simpson. The devastation their families faced at the hands of mother nature has led them to the birth of a new story. The Covington, Louisiana couple will be opening Brightway, The Roynell Agency insurance office in St. Tammany Parish September 6. Located just minutes away from Ground Zero of one of the nation’s most dangerous hurricanes, the Simpsons are opening their own insurance franchise where they feel it is needed the most.
Seventeen years ago, Hurricane Katrina and her Category 5 winds destroyed the Interstate 10 Twin Span Bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, as well as dumped more than seven feet of flood water. The strain of the storm caused levees in the lake to crumble, leading to the devastating flooding of New Orleans. Leroy’s family home was one of the more than 850,000 homes destroyed after Katrina slammed ashore. Katrina would ultimately lead to the deaths of more than 1,800 people, cause more than $125 billion in damage and leave more than 400,000 people homeless.
“Two homes in our family were ruined by Katrina. What better legacy to build than one of protecting the people and the home we love,” Leroy said of his family’s new insurance venture. “My high school, Redeemer-Seton High school in New Orleans, was destroyed, too. Although it shook our family and disrupted our lives, we looked at it as a second chance to build an even better life. Insurance helped rebuild those family homes. But we were among the lucky ones. Being where we can help, where we are needed, is important.”
Sixteen years to the day after Katrina first came ashore, Hurricane Ida roared out of the Gulf of Mexico and into Port Fourchon just before noon on Aug. 29, 2021. Her 150-mile-per-hour winds displaced more than 14,000 people and caused more than $75 billion in damage. Among the displaced would be JaNell’s parents after Ida destroyed her childhood home in Hammond, Louisiana.
“I was only nine years old when we moved into that house. Then, 30 years later, my parents are all of the sudden found without a home,” JaNell said. “Learning to deal with the insurance side of things while helping my parents through this process became a passion for me. Doing all we can to help prepare our friends and neighbors during challenging times is truly something we feel drawn to do.”
Brightway, The Roynell Agency encourages residents to carefully review their insurance coverage, even though this has been the least active storm season the nation has experienced in 30 years. Currently in the peak of hurricane season, meteorologists believe the number of systems will increase in the coming weeks as they continue to predict the formation of up to 10 more hurricanes by the end of November.
JaNell, 42, holds a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from Southern University and A&M College. Leroy, 41, holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Dillard University (LA), a master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Louisiana Tech University and a Doctorate of Psychology from Phillips Graduate University (CA). Residents of Covington, Leroy and JaNell have been married for 12 years and have two daughters.
Brightway, The Roynell Agency offers customized Home, Flood, Auto, Boat, Condo, Renters, Personal Articles, RV, Motorcycle, Umbrella, and Life insurance policies from numerous insurance companies. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CDT) and Saturday/Sunday by appointment. Visit them at the office located at 106 Park Place, Suite 211 in Covington or online at BrightwayRoynell.com or call 985-549-6860.
Brightway’s corporate office staff provides expertise and support in areas including customer service, technology, accounting, marketing, distribution and business analytics. In addition, Brightway handles carrier relations and appointments, as well as support with personnel hiring, licensing, onboarding, training and retention. The company’s signature after-the-sale service empowers Agency Owners, like Leroy and JaNell Simpson, to focus on new business sales and provide customers the personalized service they deserve.
About Brightway Insurance
Established in 2008, Brightway grew to become one of the largest privately-owned property/casualty insurance distribution companies in the U.S. with over 300 franchises in 30 states and over $900 million in annual premiums. Recently, Brightway’s success led to a private equity investment that has infused the company with financial and human capital, and data and analytics access, to accelerate growth and deliver new and exciting market opportunities.
Brightway produces winning outcomes for franchisees and their customers by offering access to customized coverage solutions from a range of insurers paired with full back office and marketing support. This winning model allows agents and producers to focus on addressing the needs of their customers to become trusted advisors and grow their businesses.