St. John agencies join together

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Staff Reporter

RESERVE – As the saying goes, “Two heads (or more) are better than one.” And that is the premise of the St. John Parish Interagency Council, which held its quarterly meeting Nov. 16 at the St. John Schools Media Center.

The diversified 80+ agencies located in the parish disseminate important information to each other at their gatherings. They keep each other abreast of what’s going on in relation to their services in the community.

Representatives from more than one dozen organizations were present at Wednesday’ meeting. The group combined their regular business discussion with a Thanksgiving Potluck Luncheon.

At the beginning of the meeting, facilitator Dean Torres reiterated the mission of the council. Torres is also the Executive Director of the St. John United Way

The Interagency Council began in 1992. Before that time, there was no forum for the agencies to get together, he said. “One of the reasons the Interagency Council exists is to collaborate with each other.”

Torres added that the organization has continued to meet consecutively since its inception. “We have met quarterly since that time (1992.) We continue to solve problems and learn from each other.”

Members also discuss possible grants for their programs, sharing ideas and expertise.

“Many agencies are doing outstanding work in family services,” said Greg Maurin, Community Relations Director for the St. John Sheriff’s Office.

Maurin regularly attends the meetings, sharing details of events and current programs offered through the Sheriff’s Department. On Wednesday, he also talked about the new fingerprinting system that the Sheriff’s Office will be using.

Also at the meeting, Paula Kane, Community Specialist from the LA Social Services Department, told the audience that there are many services available to low-income families that the families themselves may not be aware of.

She cited the earned income tax credit that is available to eligible persons when tax time rolls around.

“Many people are not aware of this credit, which they may be entitled to use,” she said. “This is a wonderful credit for low-income families.”

Kane also suggested a tax-assistance program that St. John Parish can develop. Assisting residents with filing income taxes can become a reality through help from the IRS, according to Kane.

The Parish would have to generate their own volunteers but, “The IRS can provide software and training,” said Kane.

During the morning meeting, Torres also mentioned the recent “Community Conversation” that some of the agencies attended.

As part of Gov. Blanco’s Program on Poverty, these talks within each Louisiana Parish are to pinpoint priority problems within the individual Parish regarding those residents living at poverty levels.

Four core issues were mentioned regarding the program – enhancing education, enhancing economic development and employment, family assets and community assets.

St. John Parish chose to concentrate on the first two issues, according to Torres. “Talks will continue within each Parish, “he added.