St. Charles Herald-Guide

Lending a helping hand

By M. Susanne Hinkle - April 5, 2006

Local residents and organizations are lending a helping hand to the FISH relief volunteer camp located directly behind the First Union Presbyterian Church in Luling.

As residents take notice of the camp's relief efforts in hurricane ravaged areas, community members are stepping up and helping the relief workers to make their time in the community something they will never forget. The camp director, Richard Cozzano, and all the relief volunteers want to say "Thank you".

"We want to thank the community," says Richard Cozzano, FISH camp manager at the First Union Presbyterian Church in Luling. The FISH camp, FISH standing for First in Service and Hope, has housed hundreds of volunteer workers in the last several months. With so many volunteer groups coming and going, supplies are in constant demand. "Members of the community have really been wonderful to us. People often show up unannounced with baked goods or just about anything that would make our stay here a little easier. We are truly thankful," said Cozzano.

"The help is coming from everywhere. Just to name few supporters, Brownie troop 1114 brought us baked goods, Holy Family Catholic Church has done a paper goods collection and delivered the supplies to us, the Holy Family Alter Guild has brought us baked goods and cash donations, the Assembly of God Church in Des Allemands had their band play at our dedication, St. Charles Parish Social Concerns donated food items, the teachers are Lakewood Elementary provided desserts, the list goes on and on. It really is a community effort here at the camp", Cozzano said. He went on to say, "The community here is great. They make me and all of the volunteers feel comfortable and at home. Most of the volunteers who arrive at the camp have no idea what they will find here. They leave saying it became one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives."

"The other day I was in the grocery store and I had forgotten my credit card. I didn't have enough cash to cover all the items in my cart and the person behind me offered to pay the difference. It was someone I didn't even know. Strangers become strangers no longer. I am so happy here. People have opened their homes and hearts to us," said Cazzano.

The camp continues to see a constant influx of volunteers that arrive from all over the country. With mouths to feed, tired bodies to rest and workers to coordinate, the efforts of the community are appreciated by these good samaritans more than can ever be expressed. "Because of the community, we feel right at home," Cozzano said.