What started as a plan to feed Lake Charles evacuees on Thanksgiving Day has turned into so much more, and, in fact, it’s not even over yet.
Patrice Honor has deep roots in St. Charles Parish. Her grandmother, Eloise Coleman Colly, was one of the first African American teachers to integrate the parish. And while she now lives in Jefferson Parish, Patrice’s mother Artemise Jones and some of her daughters still lives in St. Charles.
Patrice’s love of cooking has started a weekly family tradition for her, her mother and her daughters Kirstyn Jones, Kiara Jones, Krysten Samuel, Kaylen Samuel – they travel once a week to New Orleans to serve a hot meal to displaced hurricane victims.
“Cooking is one my passions,” Patrice said. “I’m in a group on Facebook – Where Nola Eats – and me and a friend of mine we were going to go feed the homeless for Thanksgiving … that was our intent. People from the community cooked food and we plated it all up.”
Patrice said there was a man in the Facebook group who asked if anyone was planning to give out meals to the still-displaced Lake Charles residents in downtown New Orleans.
“I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me, but I know how it felt going through Katrina,” Patrice said. “They had the three hurricanes that hit Lake Charles.”
Patrice got in contact with the man from the post, and instead of feeding the homeless people they planned to that day, Patrice and her friend went down Canal Street and told the man to send as many evacuated people as he could to come and get a meal.
“The hotels on the back end of Canal Street are full of evacuees from Lake Charles,” Patrice said. “They had so many people come from so many different directions. It was heartbreaking because we didn’t have enough, and we had over 100 plates.”
That day Patrice was also able to meet the man she conversed with online – Justin.
“He was a 33-year-old man in wheelchair with Crohns and diabetes,” Patrice said. “When I came home that evening, I called my mom and told her how heartbreaking it was. There were a lot of children and elderly people and a lot of people with health conditions out there.”
About an hour later, Patrice said her mother called her back with an idea.
“She said, ‘What if once a week we go down there and give them a home cooked meal?’” Patrice said. “Justin told me that on November 29 the Red Cross would stop feeding them, so we went down there, and we did it for the first three weeks in December and we went Christmas Eve too.”
Since then, Patrice and her mother and daughters have gone every week to feed people.
Patrice said the joy they get from being able to help people is priceless, but the experience has had some heartbreak in it as well. The group of women were devastated to find out the news that Justin had passed away in the beginning of January.
“That was rather heartbreaking because he was the reason we did it all,” Patrice said. “He didn’t have clothes … he really didn’t have anything. When he left home it was summertime and then it got cold. Justin really touched our hearts. I promised to him as long as God gives me a way to go do it, I will. He really cared about everyone else. His main concern was that everyone had what they needed.”
Patrice, who has been laid off from her job at the airport since March, said although money is tight for her personally there have been people each week who have donated money or food to the cause.
“God makes a way every week,” she said. “It makes me feel better to know at least they’ve eaten a good home cooked meal … if I could do it every day I would.”
Patrice said while the numbers of evacuees being housed in New Orleans has been reduced because of people returning to Lake Charles, she still rarely has enough to feed all of the needy people each week.
“It’s never enough … it’s just crazy,” she said. “There’s nothing worse than a child being hungry. We’re just trying to give them something to let them know somebody cares. It’s so troubling to me … these people have a room, but they don’t eat and they don’t have clothes and they don’t have money for basic necessities. It’s so hard for them … they don’t give them any financial help. They can’t pay their phone bill, so they don’t have contact with people.”
Patrice said when possible, she and her family have also given out toiletries and other supplies.
“Things happen for a reason,” she said of seeing Justin’s post on Facebook and getting involved. “We have a way to go down there and feed them. I feel like it’s something we need to do. It really does take a village. At any moment it can be anybody who needs help.”
To donate money, food or toiletries to the efforts, contact Patrice through Facebook or call 504-513-9626.