Community Volunteers Give Back to Catholic Charities

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by Lucy Medvec

As with any non-profit agency, the work and support from volunteers are important to the success of the organization. This is no different with Catholic Charities of North Louisiana. Since its inception in 2010, CCNLA has been blessed with a core of volunteers that assist with many of the organization’s programs on a daily basis.

GABRIEL’S CLOSET
Gabriel’s Closet opened in June 2012 as a volunteer-run “boutique” where low-income new parents could get new and gently-used items needed to care for their infants. Working with these families, our volunteers quickly began identifying other issues that needed to be addressed such as parenting skills and nutrition.  They began including a child’s book with each distribution and encouraging the parents to read out loud to their children. Today, CCNLA offers parenting classes taught by volunteer OB-GYN nurses twice each week. Class topics include well-baby care, infant CPR and first aid, nutrition, dental care and parenting skills. In addition to working one-on-one with parents, Gabriel’s Closet also has volunteers from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church that come once a week to sort the many items that are donated from the community.  Our Gabriel’s Closet volunteers worked extra hard this past fall when their storage space underwent a major renovation and items had to be packed up, stored and then moved back into the former sanctuary.

COMMUNITY GARDEN
The community garden is part of CCNLA’s Healthy Eating on a Budget Initiative in order to provide food and gardening experience to our clients. The garden has been tended to periodically by community volunteers, including those from United Way’s annual “Day of Caring.”  Employees from Edge Office Products weeded the garden last March in order to prepare it for spring planting, but a very rainy season eventually turned the garden into an overgrown jungle.  One day last fall, Earl O’Kee contacted CCNLA looking for an opportunity to give back to his community.  After many weeks of hard work, Mr. O’Kee reclaimed the community garden and planted vegetables to be harvested in the coming months.  His hard work and love of the outdoors revitalized the garden plots and he looks forward to planting even more vegetables and herbs this spring.

MEDICAL SCHOOL PARTNERSHIP
In September 2016, CCNLA entered into a partnership with the LSU Health Shreveport School of Medicine and their FACTTS (Fourth-year Academic Clinical Training and Teaching Selective) program. Every month during the school year, medical students select a community organization in which they will serve eight volunteer hours.  CCNLA is one of the selected organizations and has provided volunteer opportunities in each of its programs to fourth-year students before they move on to residency programs.  This Service Learning Activity program gives students the opportunity to learn more about social agencies in our community and how they are helping the underserved.

Catholic Charities is always looking for volunteers. Hours and opportunities are flexible and there are many ways to get involved.  Other areas include teaching one of our many classes (financial education, nutrition, parenting or English as a Second Language) or providing basic office assistance.  For more information about becoming a volunteer, please contact Lucy Medvec at lmedvec@ccnla.org or (318) 865-0200 ext. 101.

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