Change coming to Paul Maillard

April 01, 2010 at 9:23 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

What started out as a vision from God for one local woman has now evolved into an outreach center that provides support for those struggling to find a place in life and for those who want to make their lives better.

Ann Harris has already put up $15,000 of her own money to start the St. Anthony Outreach Center, which is located on Paul Maillard Road in the Village Square shopping center.

Harris, who works as a paralegal and notary and is a longtime activist, spent a lot of time researching services that were either lacking or not available in St. Charles.

When she was done, she had a comprehensive list of services that included a gamut of specialties from counseling programs to personal hygiene courses.

The center had its grand opening last Saturday.

“It was really a vision from God,” Harris said. “God gave me a vision to start this outreach center and He really guided me here.”

The non-profit outreach center provides services for  at-risk youth, mentoring, after-school care, tutoring, female prison re-entry programs,  job readiness and placement, suicide prevention counseling, substance abuse counseling, anger management counseling and speech therapy. A separate room in the massive facility is set aside for almost every one of those services.

The best part about these services is that most of them are available for free for those that have Medicaid. And since St. Anthony’s is a Medicaid enrollment center, residents can sign up for the program while enrolling in counseling or courses.

“For after care, if a parent has to work until 6 p.m. but their children get off at 3 p.m., we will watch them and offer tutoring in our computer lab or take the younger ones out to a park until the parents can arrive. After care is usually expensive, but almost all of the people who have children enrolled in our after-care program aren’t paying anything,” Harris said. “Then we have licensed counselors that offer help in substance abuse and suicide prevention, and we have volunteers who help people learn how to dress for success or attain a job.

“We just have a lot to offer.”

The list of services goes on and on, including a food pantry, a clothing distribution center and a room for child health screenings that will be run by the St. Charles Community Health Center.

“A lot of parents only bring their children to the doctor when they are sick, but I want to offer preventative care so that parents can learn what they need to do to keep their children healthy,” Harris said.

As if all that wasn’t enough, residents who want to get CPR or social worker training can take courses at the St. Anthony Outreach Center.

But the main goal of the center is to serve as a safe haven for at-risk youth. Mary Mire, one of the volunteers, said they want to catch teens between the ages of 14 to 17 before they make a bad decision that can ruin their lives.

“Our programs geared towards at-risk youth are preventative ones,” she said. “We are going to offer programs this summer that can keep them busy and educated. Our counseling services will also help them successfully deal with the gamut of situations that they have to deal with.

“We are really excited.”

In one of the many rooms, Mire said that volunteers will also show those teens the benefit of having religion in their lives.

“We can show them about the power of God and pray with them for guidance,” she said. “We will also help connect them with a church to attend if they don’t have one already.”

At-risk youth will also have the ability to volunteer at the center.

Harris said that they are slowly starting to see teens show up at the center as the word gets out about the programs that are offered. At the grand opening last Saturday, Harris said several of the center’s clients read testimonials to the crowd that showed how much help they had already received from the outreach center.

“Since then, we have had a lot of people coming by,” Harris said. “It has been extremely busy.”

Sheriff Greg Champagne toured the center two weeks ago and was impressed with its potential.

“I believe that (Harris’) organization has the ability to do a lot of good work and we need all of these types of services,” he said. “We have some now, but there is still a shortage. I am hopeful that this location can help at-risk youth in St. Charles and I have offered her my help and support.”

Champagne added that he has heard great things about Harris from senior commanders with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.

“She has done some work in Jefferson as well and those commanders told me that she has done some very good work there,” he said.

Though Harris has had to finance the center herself so far, she has applied for grants and is looking for sponsors to really get everything up and running. She is also in need of volunteers.

“This is something I just felt there was a need to do,” she said. “I wanted to use my own money to start the center because I knew a lot of people would want to help when they saw the kinds of services we offered.

“I really feel that we can improve the quality of life in this community.”

For more information on the St. Anthony Outreach Center, call (985) 785-8745.

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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