Catholic Charities Opens Office in Lake Providence

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by Theresa Mormino

Most people know there is a high rate of poverty in Louisiana but perhaps you didn’t know that right here in our state, we have a parish with the second highest per capita poverty rate in our nation!  In the last available census from 2011, *East Carroll Parish had a 44% poverty rate and, even more astounding, for children the rate is 54%!

Poverty rates are much more than statistics. Just ask Sr. Bernadette “Bernie” Barrett who works one-on-one each day, along with a dedicated team of volunteers, to help those who come to the new satellite office of Catholic Charities, which opened in Lake Providence this past July. Housed in a former health unit, the team works to help individuals and families who have little other resources for assistance. The job picture is bleak in that area and the poverty rate affects everything – education, income levels, medical care, elder facilities and care, and the list goes on.

Jean Dresley, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Shreveport, working closely with Sr. Bernie and Fr. Mark Watson, quickly realized the enormous need in Lake Providence and in all of East Carroll Parish for programs of assistance and education. In the first week of operation, volunteers received more than 75 calls for assistance for everything from rent and utility help to food and diapers.  Poverty is no respecter of people, especially the children who suffer. When your stomach is empty, it’s hard to concentrate on homework, pay attention in school and succeed in life.

Following Jean’s lead and modeling the Shreveport agency’s program, our financial education course, The Money School, was established in Lake Providence. Classes were filled from the beginning and continue to be today. As in the Shreveport and Bossier communities, the people of East Carroll Parish who are at or below the poverty level lacked the knowledge and skills to change life-long habits that contributed to their struggle to pay their bills and meet their most urgent needs. It’s hard to think about a budget when you are worried about having enough food to feed your family or the possibility that you will all be out on the street because you’ve been evicted from your modest home.

We all sail in the same ship and it’s our calling and our job to see to it that others who travel with us are safe, fed, housed, clothed and heard. Sr. Bernie and Fr. Watson will be glad to have you join them in this much needed and worthwhile Christian calling. They need volunteers and funding, two things we can all do to be sure that more of God’s needy have the opportunity to change their lives and have hope for the future.  For more information, call our office at 318 865-0200, ext. 101.

*Definitions: Estimated number and percentage of the total population with incomes less than the federal poverty threshold.
Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division, Small Area Estimates Branch, Washington D.C.

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