Bridget LaBorde's Letter to the Editor on the Social Systems Session
The 2018 Leadership Tangipahoa Class set out on December 12, 2017 to learn about all of the social systems in Tangipahoa Parish. The first stop of the day was at the Council on Aging in Hammond. Our class was greeted by the delightful, Ms. Beverly, who explained that 350 meals a week are served to senior citizens in the area. Some are congregate meals, while other meals are delivered to homes through the Meals on Wheels program. At the Council on Aging Center, we learned that senior citizens gather at the center daily for the "ever popular" Bingo games. They can also participate in exercise classes held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as well as, Art and Computer classes offered throughout the week. Ms. Beverly stressed to us that socialization for the senior citizens is so important. She invited all of us to volunteer in some way. A few class members have stated they are interested in returning to "call BINGO"!
Options was next on the agenda. Mrs. Sylvia Bush, who has been with Options for 38 years, welcomed us. She said that the organization's mission is to help people with disabilities live and work in the community. We learned that Ms. Mary Pirosko, whose son has a disability, is the founder of Options. As many of us were aware, Ms. Pirosko was on the local radio for many years. It was interesting to learn that Robin Roberts, who now is an anchor on Good Morning America, worked at the radio station with Ms. Pirosko and became a big supporter of Options. Options currently serves over 220 individuals and employs over 300 individuals in various capacities. They even employ some of the clients they serve. Some work in the Options Garden Center, the Weaving Studio, Fabulous Finds and the Second Line Bead Recycling and Sales. To our amazement, we learned that Options has 26 buses that travel each day to move clients throughout our parish. All of the services provided is made possible through 80% federal and state funding, 11% grants and contributions and 9% cash, stock or property funding.
Nearing lunchtime, we traveled to Our Daily Bread (ODB), a non-profit food bank whose mission is to alleviate hunger in Tangipahoa Parish. Over 2,000 families are helped each month with a food box, which is distributed through one of the 28 distribution sites. ODB also provides emergency food boxes to those in need; over 600 were given out last year. The most astounding fact that Mrs. Myrna Jordan, the Executive Director, shared with us was the sheer number of volunteers committed to being a part of this organization--400! Most of them are from local churches. Mrs. Myrna also told us about all of the donations from various companies, groups and organizations. She said that Walmart Distribution has made substantial donations; such as, funds for a fork lift, a freezer truck, and most recently, a generator to run both of their buildings. Mrs. Myrna stressed how critical community partnerships are to their mission and explained that all of the food distributed by ODB is donated.
One partnership that leverages a tremendous amount of support for Our Daily Bread is the United Way. The United Way actually sponsored our lunch and we were fortunate to hear from representatives, Cammie Proctor and Jamene Dahmer. They stated that their goal is to make sure the community knows what resources are available and with poverty being the number one problem, organizations like ODB is critical. Ms. Dahmer emphasized the collaboration of many agencies and groups to meet the needs of the community. Mrs. Myrna, with ODB, said that she could not meet the needs of so many without the help from The United Way. Our class learned the direct impact of the United Way on Tangipahoa Parish for 2017 ... over 70,000 services were provided by United Way programs and partner agencies.
Child Advocacy Services (CAS) was next on the agenda for our class. We pulled up to two older homes that have been transformed into offices for CAS. (Later, we learned the importance of the residential-type setting.) Rob Carisle, the CEO, greeted us and informed us that CAS is a private, 501(c)(3) non-profit umbrella agency which provides services through the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program and the Children's Advocacy Center (CAC). The mission of CAS is to give voice, healing and security to children who suffer from abuse or neglect. CAS has served children and families across 10 parishes for 24 years. Nearly 1,200 children were served last year. Rob said, "We bring the system to the child rather than the child to the system." This was further explained by Joelle Henderson, the CAC Program Director. We met Joelle when we walked to the second home on the property. This home was actually the place where children meet with Joelle and any others from the court system to share their story of abuse or neglect. She said it is very important that the children come to a child friendly, residential place so they will feel comfortable. She added that Hayward, a trained service dog, is onsite to help when children have to talk about very difficult subject matters. Hayward is another extension of a child friendly atmosphere. The Hammond location is home to one of 3 canine facility companions in the state!
In order for our class to have a clear picture of the need for social services in our parish, we took a short drive to Lincoln Park. The Lincoln Park area is one of the most impoverished areas in Hammond. Mr. Lemar Marshall, Councilman for District 4, met us at the newly added park within Lincoln Park and shared that the park is certainly a great addition to the community. It serves as a recreational place where mothers can bring their children. There is also a walking path around the park that is being utilized. Mr. Marshall shared that Hammond has a 43% poverty rate and it is important for everyone to work to revitalize areas that are impoverished and expand opportunities to the citizens in those areas. Mr. Marshall also pointed out that many of the children in Lincoln Park attend Hammond's Afterschool Program, which was our last stop of the day.
Hammond's Afterschool Program, founded in 2014, is located at the Michael J Kenney Center and enrolls students in kindergarten through 8th grade. Currently160 students are enrolled but the program, which is under Hammond's Recreation Department, can accept up to 200. Homework help, afterschool snacks, tutoring, recreation, and dinner are all a part of this program, which runs Monday through Thursday from 3:00 - 6:00 p.m. Ten certified teachers are on staff and the transportation for the students to and from the center is provided by the Tangipahoa Parish School System. Our class learned that the program operates on a $55,000.00 budget and has received an Entergy grant for 50 students. The City of Hammond sponsors 35 of the children enrolled. A partnership with Southeastern Louisiana University affords internship opportunities for their Education majors. What an excellent example of expanding opportunities for the children in our parish!
The Leadership Tangipahoa Class of 2018 would like to commend all of the agencies and programs we visited on a job well done in serving the citizens of Tangipahoa Parish. A huge thank you to the many volunteers who selfishly serve others.
Much appreciation to Mr. Nick Gagliano for organizing and facilitating our day. It was truly an eye opening day where each of us gathered information that we can utilize to help others when needed. I appreciate Tangipahoa Economic Development Foundation Board for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of the Class of 2018.
Leadership Tangipahoa Class of 2017-2018
Leadership Tangipahoa Class of 2017-2018
Tangipahoa Economic Development Foundation Board, President
Northshore Technical Community College
Bridget serves as the Dean of Campus Administration for the Hammond Campus of Northshore Technical Community College. She is a champion for higher education and values community and business partnerships to advance the college's mission. She is a 1992 graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University. Bridget is the current President of the Tangipahoa Economic Development Board and past board member of the Greater Hammond Chamber of Commerce.