Help Center marks milestone anniversary

Published 4:33 am Friday, November 24, 2017

The Bogalusa Help Center, which provides a lifeline to the needy in the local community, has been offering them boxes of food for 30 years now.

The Help Center’s motto is, “Thanksgiving is every day of the year.”

Volunteer Board of Directors President Gene Hayman explained that the idea for the center actually came prior to 30 years ago when “those in our community saw a need for providing assistance to those who were hurting and in need of food.”

“Many of the churches, the Bogalusa Ministerial Association, and others, banded together and got the center going for about 40 families then,” he added.

Hayman said that, in the beginning, each one of the 15 to 20 churches was given one day a month to supply the food and the volunteers.

“Then, in 1987 the non-profit tax-exempt entity became active,” he said. “Now it is 30 years old, and supported by volunteers and donors who love the good Lord, and love others, and want to make sure those in need of food are not hungry.

“We do not turn anyone in need away, but try to help them as we can, thanks to our friends who share this desire.

“After moving around as facilities were available, because of folks still believing in this mission, we were able to buy our present facilities. They are ancient and continually needing repairs, but get the job done. We are thankful and blessed.”

That building is located at 350 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Hayman said he is a retiree at “nearly 86 years old” and has been the president of the board of the Bogalusa Help Center for more than 17 years. Patricia Branch serves as vice president, with Ila Pittman as treasurer, and the Rev. Theodore Newman as secretary.

June Rayburn has served as the Director of Applicants for the Help Center’s whole 30 years, with Elnora Dubb joining her just five years later.

Currently, 16 to 20 volunteers a week pack approximately 450 boxes per month. The boxes are valued at $16 to $17.

The boxes are filled with canned and packaged food items, and, sometimes, fresh vegetables. All families are treated to a hen “and all the trimmings” for Christmas and sausage for Thanksgiving.

“The center has always risen to the needs of our area of Washington Parish,” Hayman said. “We served about 240 families before Hurricane Katrina to a maximum of 525 families. We have new families registering with us weekly on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. until 12 noon.

“We still have nearly 400 families each month, and families of three or more receive twice as much. And we increase the food, as funds are available.

“Many of our clients are elderly and on very limited incomes, as well as young families struggling to raise their children — some in one-parent homes/families. We do our best with the wonderful support of our donors.”

Hayman said the Help Center buys bread and bananas every week, and recently added “fresh carrots.”

“We would just like to offer what we would like at our house, if we needed it,” he said.

“Our food costs are about $60,000 each year, including purchases where we ‘shop,’ and very much appreciated donated canned and packaged foods from churches, clubs, schools, individuals, and companies,” Hayman said. “We also try diligently so as to provide for the future, as all families try to do.”

Hayman said he hopes the Help Center will be able to meet the community’s needs for many more years to come.

“Thank you all for your love and support,” he said. “And please do come see us any Wednesday morning, except the fifth Wednesday of any month. Stop around 10 a.m. for updates and prayers of thanksgiving for our blessing. We also need volunteers to help with our hauling and distribution on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.”

The Help Center’s phone number is 985-735-6404.