PORT ARTHUR —
Baby Jazmin Henry was all smiles Wednesday.
From her high chair at the end of a festive holiday table at Port Arthur’s Hospitality Center, the 15-month-old was the youngest participating in the annual Christmas meal, but she won’t be the youngest in her family much longer.
Jazmin’s mother, Heather Tate, 23, is expecting with a Jan. 15 due date, and was more than glad to have found a welcoming place to celebrate Christmas.
“We are feeling festive today,” Tate said. “This place gives me hope that people care.”
Tate’s husband, 29-year-old Richard Hebert, an auto mechanic, is between jobs, and is thankful for the holiday meal offered by the Hospitality Center.
A branch of Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas, the Hospitality Center caters to elderly on fixed incomes, those temporarily in need, the working poor, disabled and homeless persons.
Between Tuesday’s Christmas Eve meal and the Christmas day meal, 388 people were served this year, Christina Green, Hospitality Center director, said.
Among the Christmas day visitors was Curtis Guillory, bishop of the Diocese of Beaumont.
Bishop Guillory said he always feels blessed after stopping by the mission, especially on Christmas.
“I like to come because this is what Christmas is all about — feeding the poor,” Guillory said. “It is inspiring to see young people here volunteering because it gives them a sense of what Christmas is all about.”
Guillory said he was heartened to see a lot of the city’s homeless partaking in a holiday meal.
“Jesus said, ‘If you do this for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do this for me,’” Guillory said. “So, if you serve people, especially the poor, you are serving Jesus.”
Roland LeBlanc, 38, of Bridge City; his wife Amanda, and the couple’s two teen-aged children, spent the morning doing just that.
LeBlanc said he and his wife were trying to teach their children that its better to give than receive.
“We have not let the kids open presents until they come up here and give,” LeBlanc said. “Being here today, helping others, makes me feel humble to know the reason for the season is because Jesus gave first.”
Robert Green, 44, of Port Arthur, knows first hand what its like to be on the receiving end, as well as to give of himself.
To pay off a traffic ticket, Green agreed to volunteer his time at the Center. He has also eaten at the facility on numerous occasions since moving to Port Arthur five years ago from Oklahoma, where he raised sheep.
“I have not been here that long, Mom had cancer, so I had to come be close to her,” Green said.
Recently, Green suffered an aneurysm, and now his wife is ill. Nowadays, he depends more and more on the Hospitality Center for meals.
“I feel blessed to be here, and count each and every day I am alive as a blessing,” Green said. “This is a good Christmas; just every day I wake up now, I feel blessed.”
For Bob Bennett, a 78-year-old retired Port Arthur ISD teacher, the Center provides not only meals, but a place to interact with others —especially on Christmas Day when he would be at home alone if not for the Hospitality Center.
“I am alone now, so don’t celebrate festivities like I once did. Christmas for me is more like reading the Bible, so its nice to have a holiday meal and to be able to celebrate with others,” Bennett said.