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FAITH & FAMILY — Hospitality Center volunteers strive to brighten day for many

The Hospitality Center was a hive of activity this week as volunteers sorted through donated items and cooked meals for the near 150 people who visit daily.

Volunteers Ben Harper, left, and Michael Bowser sort through boxes of donated items at the Hospitality Center. (Mary Meaux/The News)

Shopping carts filled with bread, tortillas and sweets were lined up outside the front doors of the center, which is open seven days a week serving the “elderly on fixed incomes, temporary needy, working poor, disabled and homeless persons,” according to its website.

The Hospitality Center is part of Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas.

Christina Green, director of the center, said clients enjoyed the traditional New Years Day meal of black-eyed peas and cabbage among other menu items.

And attempted to make the cornbread, she added with a laugh.

There’s more to be given away besides the meal; inside the dining area are boxes and boxes of sweets, fresh vegetables and more for those who may want the items for a meal cooked at home. Those donations came from local grocery stores.

Elsewhere there were clothes and coats to be sorted.

While volunteers are welcome, they have had the same group donating their time since February, Green said.

The pandemic and orders for reduced capacity inside the building has led to some creativity on Green’s part. Meals are made up and given out at the door.

While it’s technically not her job to keep the clients’ spirits up, she does what she can.

“It’s hard,” Green said of not being able to have close contact. “Usually we have gifts to give out Christmas Eve (and we couldn’t). They were fine with it.”

She does have some interaction while taking names and talking with the clients who come through. She knows them by name and worries when they don’t show up.

The Hospitality Center is located at 3959 Gulfway Drive in Port Arthur.

Bread, tortillas and sweets sit in shopping carts outside the Hospitality Center.