• 81°

PHOTOS — Demolition begins for new Hospitality Center; improvements for the needy detailed

Bishop David Toups climbed into a track hoe on Monday and, with a few movements, made the first crushing blows in the demolition of The Hospitality Center.

The Hospitality Center, a part of Catholic Charities, is being demolished to make way for a brand new facility to feed the needy and those experiencing homelessness.

“It’s a sad, new beginning,” said Christina Green, executive director of the center, before the ceremony began. “It will be great. It’s my home away from home.”

Green and volunteers have continued feeding their patrons down the road at St. James Church’s Kirwin Hall.

“I remember my first day walking in not knowing anyone… this place has saved me,” Green said.

Toups was joined by Bishop Curtis Guillory, his predecessor with the Catholic Diocese of Beaumont, in the offering prayer before the demolition.

Carol Fernandez, president and CEO of Catholic Charities, said the new facility will be nicer and built with longevity in mind.

“It will be made of materials easier to clean and be more welcoming for all coming, volunteers and guests,” Fernandez said.

The capacity of the new center will be increased, going from 55 to 90. And while the center sometimes serves more than 100 people a day, this means there is a line to enter. With the new facility comes a breezeway where guests will be out of the elements.

The center will also have a dedicated area for clothing for guests and an “event” center where sponsors can administer flu shots or assist guests with signing up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or other programs.

“I’m so excited. This is such a blessing,” Fernandez said.

Volunteers Pam and John Vega and Barbara Freeman have given their time at the Center for years.

Freeman said she gets more from the volunteering than what it takes. During her years of being at the center, she has come to know the guests and worries about them.

“A friend and I were talking and I said I wanted to help Meals on Wheels because of what they did for my mom and dad,” Freeman said of how she got started volunteering.

Her friend convinced her to go to The Hospitality Center to see how she liked it.

“I absolutely fell in love with it, all of the volunteers, Christina, Carol Fernandez, the guests,” Freeman said. “It’s been very positive all the way around.”

The new facility will tentatively be completed in October at the current site, 3959 Gulfway Drive.