With the holidays approaching food banks around the area are in need of donors and volunteers to supply the needs of residence.
The Samaritan Center, located in Mandeville, is a Christian organization that offers emergency assistance to residents in need.
The organization started in 1989 when local churches collaborated to provide services for the less fortunate in the community. Donations of canned goods and clothing helped victims of fires, victims of floods, single mothers and other residents in need.
Today, the Organization has grown from a small organization to an organization that served 2,670 local families in 2014. The Samaritan Center’s largest program is Gran’s Attic, a thrift store adjacent to the Samaritan Center that provides clothing, books and other basic home items.
“Our main goal here is to feed the stomach and to feed the soul. We want people to become self-sustained and to get involved with a church. A church brings a support system and hope,” said Program Coordinator Paul Stich.
The organization is a standalone organization and receives no government funding.
“Without volunteers and donors, we would not exist. There is a common misconception on the Northshore that there isn’t a hunger problem. People think of big cities like New Orleans, but there is a large hunger problem here on the Northshore,” said Stich
A major contribution to the Samaritan Center is the annual fundraiser the Empty Bowl. This event involves approximately 20 local restaurants that donate their services for a silent auction. All proceeds go to the Samaritan Center’s food supply and not to the financial needs of the organization.
The Samaritan Center also has 22 churches that regularly give to the Samaritan Center. Each church is assigned one or two non-perishable food items for residents in need.
“The Samaritan Center makes it easy for you to help them; they’re good about working around your schedule. Everyone there is so nice and the people we served were always so appreciative,” said former Volunteer Ada Tusa.
Despite the funds raised at the Empty Bowl the Samaritan Center’s needs are heightened during the Holiday Season.
“Thanksgiving is such a special time of year. Especially the thanksgiving meal. Traditional Thanksgiving foods are not provided for our regular food services,” said Stich.
The Giving Thanks Program does not only help clients of the Samaritan Center other residents are welcome to come for assistance as well.
The Giving Thanks baskets consist of a list of non-perishable items and $50 worth of perishable food items.
“My favorite part about volunteering is watching a kid’s face light up when you give them a big dessert,” said Volunteer Roger Linde.