Jasmin Sziber's Letter to the Editor on Social Systems Session
The 2009-2010 Leadership Tangipahoa class is soon coming to an end and I want to express my gratitude for being able to participate in such a wonderful program. I want to thank my sponsor and employer, Gabriel Building Supply, our chairman, Emily McKneely, our facilitator, John Dardis, and all my classmates and new friends that have made this year unforgettable. This is a great opportunity for anyone who can spare one day a month to learn about our region, and most importantly meet new people and friends that will enrich your life for years to come. Applications are currently being accepted for next year’s class, so don’t miss your opportunity!
This month’s central theme was social systems. We started the day at the Options facility in Hammond, where we heard from the Executive Director, Sylvia Bush. She informed us of the beginnings of the Options organization, which currently has 230 clients that are serviced by 250 dedicated, caring, selfless employees. Construction has begun on “Safe Haven”, a building which will function primarily as a vocational training facility, or if needed, will serve as an emergency shelter able to meet the needs of disabled individuals while allowing them to remain in a familiar environment.
Steve Leon went over the services that Options offers to the community, many of which I was not aware of. Carefully tended flowering plants and vegetables are available for sale at the horticulture center, and ladies, the clients working in the jewelry department have beautiful pieces for sale at businesses around the community. It is easy to find the perfect Mother’s Day gift there. They also offer document shredding services, janitorial services, and much more; please visit the website at www.options4u.org for complete details.
After a touching story from former development director Mary Pirosko, we were told about the quality of life benefits that options provides their clients by a very enthusiastic Katie Crouse, current development director. We were able to take a tour of the facility and meet some of the wonderful clients!
While at the Options facility, Jamene Dahmer, executive director of Tangipahoa Parish United Way spoke to us about the mission of the United Way foundation and some of the many organizations that they partner with to provide needed services to the community. These include, but are certainly not limited to , American Red Cross, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Options, Our Daily Bread, and Tangipahoa Voluntary Council on Aging. The United Way is a very broad organization that impacts the lives of many people in our community.
Next we heard from Debbie Fleming, the executive director of the Tangipahoa Voluntary Council on Aging. She described to us all of the wonderful programs that are available to our senior citizens to maintain their nutritional, physical and emotional wellbeing. Not only do they provide meals and activites and transportation, they provide companionship and compassion to our aging community who would otherwise have no one.
A bus provided by the Tangipahoa Voluntary Council on Aging took us to the Our Daily Bread food distribution center, where Myrna Joiner gave us a tour and proudly showed off her new walk in cooler. Our Daily Bread distributes to area food pantries, provides hot meals through distribution centers throughout the parish, and also provides emergency boxes containing items like toothbrushes and soap along with food to individuals in need.
We followed Mrs. Joiner and her volunteers to the Souls Harbor Worship Center with hot meals to distribute to the waiting crowd. It was an honor to be able to meet the volunteers who donate their time every week to distribute food to those less fortunate. After lunch, the pastor of Souls Harbor treated us to some of his wife’s delicious bread pudding.
Our next stop was the Quad Area Community Action Agency on North Baptist Road. Many of the directors took time to discuss with us their respective programs, and executive director Wallace Sibley discussed the workings of the organization. Todd Doctor gave us a tour of the soon to open Winnie Sibley Veterans Village, a center designed to help veterans in need get back on their feet and cope with the return to society.
Our final stop for the day was Beacon Light Church on Hanson St. in downtown Hammond. Administrator Jeronda Bordenave gave us an overview of the services and ministries provided by the organization. We then toured the section of the facility used for Project Step Up program which is an after school tutoring program headed by Orlandiea Johnson. The popular program has grown and currently has 8 certified teachers and countless other volunteers and student workers.
This month’s class was very eye-opening. There are so many organizations trying to better the lives of our residents, and they are all very under-funded. I encourage every one who is able to make a contribution, even if it is just volunteering your time. There are countless organizations in our area that need our help to make our community a better place for all.
By: Jasmin Sziber