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Help Center adapts to meet COVID-19 needs

The coronavirus pandemic and the resultant statewide shutdown order has not halted the Bogalusa Help Center’s (BHC) mission of providing food to the Bogalusa area’s needy and undernourished. It continues to supply quality food products to over 400 families every month with new additions each week. It is committed to continue this service to the community.

Immediately after the imposition of the state-wide shutdown order, the BHC revamped its procedures to minimize, and even eliminate, client contact and to impose social distancing. This was especially important because the majority of its clients and nearly all of its volunteer workers fall within the high-risk category of potential coronavirus sufferers. First, the BHC streamlined its packing procedures to reduce the number of volunteer workers and to impose social distancing within the workplace. All BHC worker-volunteers are gloved and masked. The safety of clients and volunteers is our highest concern.

Next, BHC accelerated its long-term plan to institute a drive-thru distribution system. Now each client can check in (or new client register) and receive groceries without leaving their vehicle. Some initial kinks and problems were quickly eliminated by the ingenuity and hard work of our volunteers and the patience and understanding of our clients. These steps have allowed us to continue full service, with only half of our normal volunteers. Indeed, it has been a community effort. The City of Bogalusa has built a temporary ramp over the street curb and has furnished police barricades to help direct traffic. Donors, both corporate and private, recognizing the need, have stepped up, which has allowed BHC to make the necessary structural changes to our facility to protect clients and volunteers from the heat and weather. As new donations/grants become available to finalize construction, we will complete the driveway — making the drive-thru service a permanent option.

The BHC has been operating continuously in Bogalusa for 35 years. It is completely volunteer run and has no paid employees. Our Spring 2019 replacement of our roof and additions to our warehouse space and overhaul of our electrical, drainage, and heating cooling, allowed us to join the Second Harvest Food Bank, which now provides most of our USDA products including some meat and fresh fruits and vegetables. These are supplemented by in kind donations and by purchases from local grocers using our cash donations. Combined, this all means each dollar donated is multipled and BHC can now distribute about 40 lbs of food products to each client each month with double portions for larger families. A food distribution includes dry goods staples, canned goods, protein sources (meat, eggs, cheese, etc.), and fresh fruit and vegetables. When available, we have been distributing tomato and pepper plants to encourage clients to start their own gardens/patio food resource.

The BHC, located at 350 Martin Luther King Drive, is open for registration, food distribution and food donations on the first four Wednesdays of each month from 8 a.m. until noon. If there is a fifth Wednesday in a month, such as this month, the BHC is closed.

Thanks to community support, we have and intend to continue to be “Neighbors Helping Neighbors.”