St. John Ministry of Care finds new home on Highway 51

Published 1:28 am Wednesday, September 7, 2022

LAPLACE — Previously located on West Fifth Street, the St. John Ministry of Care has found a new home at 2807 Highway 51 in LaPlace.

Since its inception in 1985, the St. John Ministry of Care has provided a helping hand to local families experiencing food and financial insecurity. Short-term crisis assistance provides help with Entergy and water bills, rent, and non-narcotic prescription drugs, while the on-site food bank provides boxes stocked with 40 to 50 pounds of non-perishable goods.

The COVID-19 pandemic and damage from Hurricane Ida forced the temporary closure of the office, but operations have picked back up since the new location opened on May 4, 2022.

The St. John Ministry of Care is currently open on Wednesdays only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. In order to receive financial assistance with bills, individuals must be inside the office by 1:30 p.m. and have their driver’s license, social security card and proof of income. The individual must also present the bill they need assistance with, and the address on the bill must match the address on his or her driver’s license.

According to treasurer Glenda Wactor, bill pay assistance is available once every two years to St. John Parish residents only.

The St. John Ministry of Care is generally able to pay $300 toward an Entergy bill or rent, or $200 toward a water bill. However, Wactor said the amount covered is dependent upon an individual’s age and personal situation.

Eddie Jouty, who has volunteered with the St. John Ministry of Care since 2014, said the needs of the community shift over time. While at one point, most requests for help stemmed from issues with the water billing system, there are now more families needing assistance with paying Entergy bills that seem to constantly be on the rise.

“It’s heartbreaking in a way because some Entergy bills right now are $1,400, and we can’t give that much to people,” Wactor said. “When someone comes in and tells you their story, you never know what you are going to hear. We always want to be here to help in a crisis situation. You may have to buy a tire this month for $100. We might think that’s nothing, but that’s a crisis to some families.”

Wactor has learned that making a difference in someone’s life can be as simple as offering a listening ear during a time of need.

Since she started volunteering with the Ministry of Care in 2007, Wactor has served as president, secretary and treasurer at different points in time, and every day brings something new.

There are currently 18 case workers serving the community, and additional volunteers are always welcomed.
“A lot of our caseworkers have been here for a long time. It’s all volunteers. You feel really good when you can help somebody. I love people, and I love the caseworkers that I’ve met here. We just feel like a family,” Wactor said. “Not everybody loves their job, so it’s nice having one that you can really enjoy.”

The family feeling that surrounds the St. John Ministry of Care extends beyond the office walls. While the organization is primarily funded through St. John United Way and FEMA, donations from the community have made the St. John Ministry of Care stronger.

Help was especially appreciated after water entered the old office during Hurricane Ida. While files were saved, computers and some of the food supply was lost.

Clarence Triche, the landlord at the new location, has been very fair in helping the Ministry of Care get back on its feet. The LaPlace Lions Club provided a grant that allowed for the purchase of shelving, and several file cabinets were donated for the new location.

“We have had to tighten the food bank a little bit because this office is a little smaller, but this one feels like home,” Wactor said.

The case workers are also thankful to United Community Bank for providing a $5,000 donation. While times have been tough, local churches and organizations have continued stocking the food bank.

The Knights of Columbus group in Reserve brings food every other week, picking up donations from St. Peter Catholic Church Catholic Church and St. Hubert Catholic Church.

St. Joan of Arc and Ascension of Our Lord are continuing to deliver food donations quarterly. Other donations come from members of the public.

Anyone wishing to support the St. John Ministry of Care can contribute canned or non-perishable food items. Protein items such as tuna, peanut butter and Vienna sausage are in high demand.

Food donations are accepted on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the back of the building. For more information about the St. John Ministry of Care or to coordinate a donation drop-off, call 985-652-2729.