Mike Case's Letter to the Editor on Social Services Session
What is one road to being a better informed citizen? The Leadership Tangipahoa program has introduced us to a myriad of differing aspects of our parish from high profile to little known entities and individuals. All of these work hand-in-hand to make our area the great place we call home. From Kentwood to Ponchatoula we have visited many places and people who, without the program, may have remained an unknown mystery to each of us.
Seventy-eight percent of families in Tangipahoa Parish having students from third to eighth grade live on less than the poverty level. Many from the middle class may have never stopped to consider what happens to those much less fortunate. This month we were enlightened about social services and many of the organizations that assist needy people.
Our class adventure began bright and early at the Hammond Senior Citizen Center where Director Beverly Brazil explained the center, TVCOA (Tangipahoa Voluntary Council on Aging); some services offered and introduced us to members of the staff and two clients. All services are free to anyone over sixty years of age. Busses will bring the patrons from their homes to the facility, the doctor or virtually anywhere in the area. Hot meals are served daily. Exercise, art and computer classes are available. Katie Kraus of Options then described the services offered to those with disabilities. Options employs approximately 260 people in paper recycling, cleaning crews, and packaging services. Cathleen Abels of TARC was our next speaker. She spoke of the sister relationship with Options. TARC mostly services disabled children from birth until they transition into the school system. Greg Loushine, Executive Director of the United Way, explained their indirect methods of helping those who need assistance. A short walk next door brought us to Kids R Us daycare center where Yvonne Saltzman led a facility tour.
On the bus and to Our Daily Bread our gang went. Myrna Jordon, the Executive Director, discussed their services of giving out large quantities of food weekly. Next we rode to Soul’s Harbor to help distribute a hot meal and food to the seventy people who receive it twice a week. After serving, we ate the same type of meal we had just dispensed.
The Louisiana Workforce commission was our subsequent stop. Dot Levine, the Workforce Developer Supervisor, spoke about “Putting People to Work.” The Commission is totally federally funded. Job training is offered when grants are available. Bob Basford, Executive Director of the Tangipahoa Economic Development Foundation, followed by speaking on available trainings programs that enhance the worker’s ability to meet the demands of the job.
Back on the bus to the Quad Area Community Action Agency where we were greeted by Todd Doctor, the Program Director of Quad Vets. The first thing he did was feed us home-made peach cobbler a la mode. He then explained his programs. Some are: Job Counseling; Quad Youth Build; Silver Force; Adult Education; St. Amant Academy; Migrant/Farm Labor Housing; Emergency Food and Shelter; Transitional Housing for Veterans; and many more.
Holy Ghost Church was our final stop. Frank Pannino of St. Vincent DePaul Society explained how the organization was founded, grew, how we can assist and the work it performs. One program provides uniforms for pre-kindergarten to eighth grade students. Lisa Bourgowne, program Coordinator of Catholic Charities, highlighted funding, assistance needed and assistance they provide, including Disaster Response.
Today’s class opened our eyes to the needs of many within our Parish and showed us how we and others can assist. It takes a collaborative effort of all the organizations to help the poor.
Witnessing how everything works together to allow our citizens, businesses and government manage everyday situations without denigrating into chaos has been very informative. But the greatest feature of the entire Leadership Tangipahoa program is getting to know the fine people of our area. Friendships are being forged with our program leaders, associates and fellow students that will last a lifetime. I thank all the sponsors, businesses and individuals who have chosen to be affiliated with the program. Dividends will be reaped by our area for many years to come.