Reasons to be thankful

St. Charles Social Concerns sponsored an ecumenical community-wide Thanksgiving Worship Service at the First Union Presbyterian Church in Luling on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Highlights were a welcome by Rev. Lisa Lani Easterling, an opening prayer by Rev. George Fischer and Rev. Easterling’s reading of scripture from Matthew 25:31-40 – – “The Lord said, whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers that you do unto me.”  This led into a feeling of support for what Social Concerns is all about.

Executive Director Jasmine Berfect-Gillis gave an overview of programs St. Charles Social Concerns now offers including one she is currently organizing on Dec. 1. Contact Jasmine at the Thrift Shop if you are interested in what she has to offer. There are prizes involved.

Rev. Robert O. Zehr gave a Litany of Thanksgiving complete with props, prepared by Rev. Easterling and gotten from a Catholic priest with her own changes.This made the service truly ecumenical. A reception followed in the Fellowship Hall.

For an understanding of what Social Concerns and its Thrift Shop  try to accomplish, here’a a glimpse into the past:

In January,1981 when several concerned citizens in our community met and decided that something more should be done for the poor among us. Church members got together with a vision in mind that by working together rather than separately, more people could be served who needed help.  Rev. Tim Little, a Baptist minister was instrumental in helping the group get started. Rev. Robert O. Zehr, a Mennonite Pastor, and  and Melissa Campbell were there at the outset. So was Marty Morrison who still does work for the needy today. I came on board as an interested person because we have a newspaper in our community now called the St. Charles -Herald Guide. I would sell advertising and go around taking community pictures. I somehow kept attending meetings of Social Concerns because it seemed something worthwhile and of value.

During the first full year of operation, the Committee had only a few hundred dollars in contributions from an ecumenical Thanksgiving offering. Shortly after, United Way began contributing to the organization and has increased its donations as the number of people and their needs grew. In 1986, the parish requested that Emergency Assistance Committee administer disbursements of FEMA funds on the West Bank. The monies from these agencies served as an interim help to those individuals who need assistance with their electric and prescription bills.

Over the years, the late Rose Rapp, Lucy Folse and Fran Hickman, to name a few outstanding volunteers, became a mainstay. It was thought that we could sell used clothing to make it easier for many to shop. Everyone back then was on a volunteer basis. A building (not air-conditioned) was rented on River Road in Hahnville to house the used items and sell them.

Later on, Monsanto donated the property on Paul Maillard Road next to the fire station to St. Charles Social Concerns so that we could build a building and have more room for items. The generous land donation by Monsanto allowed the committee to embark on the courageous project of building a facility to house the Thrift Shop, Emergency Assistance Office and Food Bank in 1993.

I remember being on the building committee with Rev. George Fischer at its helm. We were all scared that we were signing our life away in case we wouldn’t be able to pay for the building. It was a time of prayer and trusting in the Lord to make things work.

Several other pastors came and went as our meetings and business grew. Father Edward Grice is one who comes to mind. We were mainly on a volunteer basis until the late Joanne Muller was hired as the Thrift Shop manager. She made it work quite well and one of her special volunteers was Sue Candies. Sue was and is a very hard worker who stepped into the Thrift Shop manager’s spot when Joanne died unexpectedly.

Even though we had volunteers, it was felt that we needed to think about hiring people to do the work at the Thrift Shop. United Way decided to help fund some of our expenses since money was being used to help people pay their electric and gas bills and mortgage payments. One of the things United Way seemed to like was that Social Concerns was helping some of the ladies in the community make wages to help their families. It was at their suggestion that Social Concerns started thinking about hiring an executive director. If you remember, everyone on the board is volunteer and we are not a governent agency – – just concerned citizens who want to make a difference.

Jasmine Berfect-Gillis was hired as the executive director. She has brought programs to our operation to try to help people help themselves through education they might need.

In the past people would count on Social Concerns to pay their electric bills every six months. Now, Jasmine has made them step up to the plate so our operation helps more than enables. On Dec. 1 she is offering her next four-day class scheduled for mid-December. We are still there to help in a monetary fashion, but St. Charles Social Concerns is trying to do more and more. Fire victims, prescription help, eyes, uniforms and, of course, the food bank is available.

The community has been an invaluable asset for donations of food and goods and furniture, collectibles and toys.

But one of the problems the Thrift Shop still has is to keep people from dropping things off at times the shop isn’t open. There has been a lot of theft of items that people donate. So, if there would be one wish, it would be to call for pick up if you can’t drop off when the shop is open. You can also get a donation slip if you drop off since donations are tax deductible.   

Current board members include: Rev.Lisa Lani Easterling, president; Sheila Rachal, vice president; Colette Lottinger, secretary; Rev. George Fischer, treasurer; Jasmine Berfect-Gillis, executive director; Louise Broach Fischer; Rev. Robert O. Zehr; Maurya Glaude; Rev. Allen LaGrange and Rev. Wayne Taylor.

We invite the public to please visit St. Charles Social Concerns to offer items, food, assistance or just to shop. We also ask your participation and suggestions.  It is truly an asset to the St. Charles Parish Community and we are truly thankful for it.

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