• 41°

Local volunteer has helped feed the needy for 26 years

Gene Hayman and a host of volunteers come together weekly with one purpose, to share the love of Christ. Bogalusa Help Center, located at 350 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, has been meeting the nutritional needs of the less fortunate in Bogalusa for 26 years.

“When I was a little boy I remember going with my grandfather to a food bank. We weren’t helping the needy. We were going for help ourselves. This stuck with me,” said Hayman.

After growing up in Bogalusa and finishing his education Hayman joined the Air Force and went to basic training in San Antonio. Upon completion of his training, one of Hayman’s superiors asked, “Can you give another person a second chance?”

Little did Hayman know his answer of “sure” would lead him on another leg of life’s journey, this time to Amarillo, Texas. Hayman’s job there was to help retrain prisoners to once again take an active roll in the country’s defense. This was the first retraining program the United States Air Force had ever undertaken.

With a big smile and twinkle in his eyes Hayman exclaimed, “I wouldn’t have missed Amarillo for anything! That’s where I met my sweet wife.”

After the Air Force, Hayman took on a new challenge of “giving a second chance.” This time it was as the director of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch and Home for Girls.

“We worked with troubled kids. Many were from broken homes, and some of our students had been in trouble with the law. We housed them, fed them and gave them an education. I have been fortunate to see many get on the right track and become productive citizens. Everyone deserves a second chance,” said Hayman.

After losing his precious wife, Hayman returned to Bogalusa to do what he has always done — help people. The Bogalusa Help Center’s stated mission is to provide food for the folks in need in Bogalusa and all of Washington Parish who qualify.

Although the staff at the Help Center tries not to turn anyone away, this service is for elderly, handicapped or low-income individuals and families. All the workers gladly give of themselves solely for the joy of knowing that the 11,000 people they serve each year will not go to bed hungry.

The 83-year-old Hayman and crew are grateful for all churches, businesses, clubs and individuals that give.

“This has been a tough year, and donations have been down. The needs of the community are great. Many of our elderly citizens that once gave monetarily are now in need themselves,” said Hayman.

“We had one lady that came several years ago for help, and after a little while stopped coming. I never knew her story,” Hayman said. “One day I was here on a Tuesday working in my office and heard a knock on the door. When I answered it, there stood the same little lady. She hugged me and shoved a hundred dollar bill into my hand. Stories like that make me want to keep going. Who knows when we might need a little help ourselves?”

Donations are welcome and tax deductible.