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MARY MEAUX — Hospitality Center benefits our community soul & more

I had the chance to visit the Hospitality Center on New Year’s Eve morning before they welcomed those in need.

Executive Director Christina Green was there, as well as some of the usual volunteers, such as Michael Bowser and Ben and Nancy Harper along with Kathleen Black. I’m sure more showed up after I left.

These folks do a lot of good for others and truly make a difference.

The crew was gearing up for the New Year’s Day meal, like most households do, with a simple meal the day before the big meal. On this particular day it would be hot dogs while the New Year’s Day meal would consist of the traditional black-eyed peas, cabbage, cornbread and more.

The Hospitality Center is part of Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas. They are open seven days a week all year long, serving the “elderly on fixed incomes, temporary needy, working poor, disabled and homeless persons,” according to its website.

Inside the dining area — which isn’t being used due to COVID-19 restrictions — there were boxes of sweets, fresh vegetables and other items for clients to bring home.

Local grocery stores made those donations and more, Green said.

Elsewhere there were clothing and coats to be sorted and distributed to those who wanted them, while outside were carts of baked goods.

Janice Laurents, left, and Brenda Tentrup package meals at the Hospitality Center last November. (Mary Meaux/The News)

Green and other volunteers know clients by name and worry if they miss a meal. In normal times, they talk and laugh together and enjoy each other’s company; something Green misses during the pandemic.

Due to the pandemic, the clients aren’t allowed inside. Instead they are given their meal at the door.

The folks who volunteer their time are forever touched by the experience.

Two years ago I popped in while John Vega was busy cooking a large vegetable soup when media arrived to talk. Vega had been volunteering for years and when asked why, he pointed towards the heavens and said “the Good Lord.”

He said being there was amazing; there were so many folks giving “thank yous.” He said it was “a calling.”

Sometimes whole families show up to help, groups of co-workers, various social and civic organizations and more. I’ve met many through the years, and they are always humble and always seem to be having a good time, whether preparing and cooking the food, on the serving line or handling other necessary tasks.

The Hospitality Center is located at 3959 Gulfway Drive in Port Arthur. For more information about the center, call 1-888-982-4842 or visit catholiccharitiesbmt.org.

Mary Meaux is a news reporter for Port Arthur Newsmedia. She can be reached at mary.meaux@panews.com.