, Port Arthur, Texas

November 21, 2012

Volunteers fuel festive feast at Hospitality Center

Brooke Crum
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — The Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas’ Hospitality Center in Port Arthur feeds the hungry every day of the year, and Thanksgiving Day is no different.

Well, what’s on the menu might be a bit different.

The Hospitality Center will serve a hearty, home-cooked meal of turkey and dressing and all the fixin’s between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Thursday to anyone who enters. And there will be pie, of course, said Daniel Maher, vice president for development and communications at the Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas.

Maher said the Hospitality Center would provide a warm, festive atmosphere and “spiritual and emotional warmth” for folks who may not have that without the center.

But the center could not serve all the mouths that walk through the door without the help of volunteers like Madelyn Thibodeaux. The center’s director is the only full-time employee.

Thibodeaux has been volunteering with the Hospitality Center for seven years now. She donates her time to the center every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and she will be there this Thursday to serve the festive feast of turkey and dressing. Her children live out of town, and she would not be traveling this holiday. Besides, this is her family, she said.

“I receive so much more than I give,” Thibodeaux said.

Many of the people who come into the center live alone and just need someone to say “hello” to them, she said. Thibodeaux has seen some families eat at the center, but mostly she has seen people who live alone and who do not want to be alone during the holidays.

Thibodeaux knows their stories, and she sees their suffering, she said. Many of them earn little to no income, she said, but she does not judge them. She serves them because she is serving Jesus Christ through her volunteer work, she said.

“You see the human face of God on these people,” Thibodeaux said, “They’re so grateful.”

She was inspired to work with the Hospitality Center when she was in Italy several years ago, performing prison ministry work. She saw a crucifix of Jesus without hands one day and wondered why he had no hands. She realized then that she had hands to serve him, and whatever she did to help other people she was doing to help him.

“It’s really a love,” Thibodeaux said, “not a sacrifice.”

At the center, Thibodeaux does whatever needs to be done. That may be serving the food or washing the dishes or just cleaning up. She expected at least 125 people to show up Thanksgiving Day, if not more.

“I don’t know anybody there who volunteers who’s not thankful,” she said.

The Hospitality Center, located at 3959 Gulfway Drive, annually serves more than 40,000 meals to low income residents of the community, according to a press release.


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