St. John Ministry of Care volunteers deliver for those in need
Published 12:09 am Saturday, December 26, 2015
LAPLACE — Glenda Wactor has cried with clients, laughed with them and cried by herself after they have left.
It’s a “pretty rewarding” experience she has been a part for the last ten years as a volunteer with St. John Ministry of Care.
Today, as the organization’s president, Wactor said the Ministry of Care remains committed to providing short-term solutions for parish residents who find themselves in a crisis.
“(Our clients) seem excited, like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders,” she said of those who receive help from St. John Ministry of Care.
“My favorite part about my job is seeing the smiles on clients’ faces when they get the help they need.”
According to Terry Labat, the Ministry of Care has been open for 30 years and was originally founded by religious leaders and laypeople so there would be a central location for residents to go and receive help.
“Now, we are a United Way agency,” Labat said. “I would say 60 percent of our money comes from United Way, the rest comes from private donations and other groups in the parish. Our mission is basically to help people who are in a short-term finical crisis, at a given time, get over the hump.”
Labat, treasurer and unofficial office manager for Ministry of Care, said potential clients often find themselves living paycheck to paycheck when something else comes up expectantly and they need a little extra money.
A caseworker reviews each situation individually and tries and solve the problem “to get them over that hump.”
Caseworkers help in various ways, like paying a portion of a utility bill or providing food from the Ministry’s food pantry.
The Ministry of Care is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday and Friday at 217 W. 5th St. in LaPlace.
Those who need assistance are asked to come to the office during working hours and sign in.
There are 22 volunteer caseworkers and eight food panty workers who give their time at least once a month in order to help those in need.
Wactor first got involved with the organization in 2006 and “fell in love with the work.”
“It makes you feel wonderful when you help someone,” Wactor said. “It gives you a good feeling. Sometimes, it’s very humbling.”
After meeting certain requirements, like being a resident of St. John the Baptist Parish for at least six months, individuals or families meet with a caseworker to discus the type of assistance needed.
“We sit down and find out what their crisis is and get a feel of who they are,” Wactor said.
“We check out what they actually owe on the bill and try to help them. For example, the most we can give them is $150 on a light bill. Sometimes, we need to go more than that depending on the client and the circumstances. We look at if they have a lot of children and if they are about to be disconnected and things like that.”
Because the help is geared toward people in short-term crisis, families or individuals can’t come back every week for assistance.
“Once we help them with a utility bill, they can’t come back for two years,” Wactor said. “The help we give is mainly for crisis situations, not for people to just come in when they need help. This isn’t an ongoing thing.”
One of the services the Ministry of Care provides is handing out food, and trying to keep a fully stocked pantry can be challenging. However, officials said, with the help of local groups, the organization has been able to provide for those in need.
Parish government office, local schools and the Post Office are a few groups that have held food drives and donated recently to the Ministry of Care.
As part of visitors entry into this year’s Andouille Festival, attendees donated a canned good. Donations totalling 880 pounds were given to the Ministry of Care.
“When people have food drives, it shows how much people in the parish want to help,” Wactor said. “It shows that everyone is willing to help in some way or another.”
After working for a number of years with the organization, Wactor believes the people who receive assistance from Ministry of Care feel relieved.
“They seem excited, like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders,” she said. “My favorite part about my job is seeing the smiles on clients’ faces when they get the help they need. I’ve cried with them, I’ve laughed with them and I’ve cried when they’ve gone. It’s a pretty rewarding thing to do.”
St. John Ministry of Care is always looking for more volunteer caseworkers. Those interested can talk to volunteers during work hours or call 985-652-2729.
By Raquel Derganz Baker