• 52°

Giving Back: Bahá’í Faith delivers food to St. John Ministry of Care

LAPLACE — For River Region members of the Bahá’í Faith, the week leading up to a 19-day religious fasting is more like Christmas than Mardi Gras, marked by family-friendly feasting, gift giving and, most importantly, charity.

Diane Broussard and Lynette Hunter of LaPlace surprised volunteers at the St. John Ministry of Care Friday afternoon with a large box stuffed full of food pantry donations for local residents in need.

Food donations were collected last week by 15 River Parishes members of the Bahá’í Faith, as well as friends, co-workers and employees at Joan’s Daycare in LaPlace.

The charity was part of a Bahá’í Faith celebration known as Ayyám-i-Há, or Days of Happiness.

Fasting, which lasts from sunrise to sunset through March 19, began Friday, but Bahá’í Faith members will continue giving back this week with Saturday’s St. John Clean Sweep.

According to Hunter, the group focuses clean sweep efforts at Greenwood Park across from LaPlace Elementary, where the Bahá’í Faith hosts all-inclusive 10:30 a.m. Saturday prayer services.

Broussard said the Ministry of Care is the focus of annual service efforts because it is one of the few locations in St. John the Baptist Parish to offer nutritional and financial help to residents in need, free from judgment.

Volunteer Cindy Kimble labels donations received Friday at St. John Ministry of Care.

She said the Bahá’í Faith has a similar mission of unity.

“The basic principles of the faith are oneness of humanity and that we are all God’s children regardless of our background or race,” Broussard said. “We believe that the ills that affect our society are all rooted in a lack of morals and things like that. The more we can pray together as a community, the more we can bring about unity.”

Racial harmony is another focus of the Bahá’í Faith, Broussard said, adding members recently celebrated Ayyám-i-Há by viewing a PBS special on race amity.

For more information on the Bahá’í Faith, call 985-652-6513, visit bahai.us or find Bahá’ís of the River Parishes Cluster on Facebook.

St. John Ministry of Care volunteer Cindy Kimble said Friday’s drop-off was greatly appreciated, adding the organization can always use help in the form of volunteers or non-perishable food and monetary donations.

“Not only do we have people who need food for their homes; we have some homeless who come in,” Kimble said.

“It’s stuff that they don’t need to heat. They can eat it right then.”

According to volunteer Lee Crayon, 30-pound boxes of food donations might go out to as many as 15 to 20 local families in a single day, as many others come to the Ministry of Care for assistance in paying bills in times of financial hardship.

St. John Ministry of Care opened in 1985 to provide St. John Parish residents in crisis with emergency food, rent, mortgage, utility assistance and referral to other agencies.

Volunteer caseworkers meet with more than 850 customers a year, listen to their stories and gather basic information regarding finances and household demographics. Individuals applying for assistance must have must a picture ID, proof of residence, social security number and proof of income.

Volunteer work is done in shifts totaling about four hours per month.

“We could always use the help,” Kimble said. “People can come in, and we’ll train them. They can sit with who ever is here and see if they want to do it.”

St. John Ministry of Care is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays at 217 W. Fifth St. in LaPlace. Doors may close at 1 p.m. if there are a lot of people in the waiting area.

Kimble said toiletries and non-perishable foods such as Vienna sausage, tuna fish cheese and crackers are needed.

Call 985-652-2729 for more information on services or to volunteer.