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Lafayette Grows Community Garden

On any given day, you’re likely to find Jerry Brown working in the vegetable garden that lies right in the middle of The Salvation Army of Lafayette, Louisiana. He’s all but guaranteed to have a massive grin across his face. Jerry is the Social Services Case Manager at the Lafayette Corps, and his passion for helping people combined with his passion for gardening has helped to produce a beautiful community garden. The food grown in this garden will supplement the food for their shelter kitchen—which feeds not only the residents of the shelter but also many hungry people from the community, often entire families. He has taken on the community garden as sort of a special project, acting as lead gardener while always welcoming help from volunteers. “The concept has always been a community garden—one that’s been put in by the community, maintained by the community. It’s on our physical property here, but everyone pitches in . . . I provide some oversight, direction, and it exists on volunteers is what it amounts to,” said Jerry. “Much like what God does, you need some fertile ground to plant that seed, so the roots sink in deep.”

The garden is surrounded by a cinder block border containing marigolds and other flowers which serve as a natural defense against aphids and other harmful insects. The garden contains tomatoes, different types of peppers, romaine lettuce, beans, cucumbers, eggplants, different spices, cantaloupes and watermelons. Jerry adds, “We have plans for a few other things—radishes, carrots, and whatever else we can find.” The plants in the garden have mostly been donated. All Seasons Nursery, a local garden center, held a Salvation Army Day where they matched donations and sales in the form of a gift card to The Salvation Army. There have also been several donations from people around the community just checking in and providing what was needed. Jerry said, “It’s amazing. Anytime we need something it’s always provided, always.”

In addition to the food provided by the garden, Jerry also places a high value on the fellowship that comes from working on it and watching it grow. He recalls, “A number of us were actually planting the seedlings, and we just started talking about, there’s a time to plant and a time to reap, and we kind of expanded on that into our own little Bible study…” That seed of remembering a bible verse grew into a larger discussion about their faith and the foundation of their faith—how people grow when God has planted them in good soil and how that leads to bearing fruit in their lives. “It’s just, it’s a blessing. It’s amazing,” Jerry adds, “the community involvement just keeps getting better and better.”

When asked what effect he thought the community garden will have on the shelter residents, besides the obvious benefit of having fresh fruits and vegetables to eat, Jerry emphasized the calm and welcoming nature that it adds to the shelter environment—being just one aspect of a greater effort to bring more comfort and stability to the men staying there. Jerry said, “The shelter has been transitioning over the past year. For instance, we started serving breakfast for the men. Just that little bit helps them hold their head a little higher and put their shoulders back and they say, ‘Ok, I can face today.’ I mean, being on the streets, it’s not easy. Just that little bit right there, that little bit of fellowship and prayer in the mornings, that helps. They come here, it’s a place of refuge where they can let that breath out, and go ‘whew, I don’t have to look over my back anymore.’ We have love and compassion here. These are people that care. Look around the environment right here, it’s not a harsh environment, it’s a welcoming—that’s what we are.”

Gift from The Walmart Foundation boosts The Salvation Army’s efforts in Southern Louisiana

walmartJACKSON, MS (August 29, 2016) – The Salvation Army’s mission of Doing The Most Good is only possible when communities and community partners step up alongside our officers, employees and volunteers to make a difference in  people’s lives. Those partners are needed even more so when disasters strike.

This is the case in Southern Louisiana where 30 inches of rain fall led to historic flooding in places like Baton Rouge, Denham Springs, Gonzales and Lafayette just to name a few. The Wal-Mart Foundation has stepped up and provide a $100,000 gift to boost The Salvation Army’s efforts as we serve meals and drinks and provide food boxes, cleaning supplies, and comfort kits.

“This is such a generous gift that will help so many folks recovering from the massive flooding in Louisiana,” said Major Steve Morris, Divisional Commander, The Salvation Army of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. “We are happy The Walmart Foundation is standing with us to make a huge impact in the lives of those who need us the most.”

“As our customers and associates continue to recover from this devastating flood, we are donating $100,000 to the Salvation Army to assist with relief efforts on the ground.  We will continue to partner closely with non-profit partners to fulfill our $1.5M commitment in Louisiana, supporting those hard hit by this disaster,” said Lee Siler, Senior Manager, Global Disaster Response and Preparedness

To date, The Salvation Army has served over 125,000 meals, over 150,000 drinks and our volunteers and employees have worked over 10,000 hours in support of disaster recovery efforts in Louisiana.

How an alcoholic goes from nothingness to an inspiration

Working in the warehouse of a Salvation Army Family store is anything but glamorous. Working in the warehouse of the Family Store in Lafayette, Louisiana there’s never a dull moment. Fay Portier is the Lafayette Corps warehouse manager.

“Sometimes it’s hectic, but you gotta keep going,” said PortierDSC09319

This week’s highlight is what looks to be an Olympic gold medal…or at least a replica.

With the help of Corps Officers, Majors Mel and Esther James, Portier stopped long enough to share his personal story with me. Portier is always on the go. He starts his pick up route at 7am and returns to the store by ten to begin sorting donations so they can be sold in the front of the store. Portier knows staying busy is better than where he’s been.

Portier will celebrate four years sober November eleventh.DSC09357

“I finally got tired of waking up drunk,” said Portier.

Working his way through The Salvation Army’s adult rehabilitation program, Portier first started out as a bell ringer, then served as the driver going around Lafayette picking up donated items. A year later, his current position came open.

Portier is now a corps soldier and Sunday school teacher, sharing the Word and passing on his experiences to men who need his guidance. It’s a role he never thought he’d be in.

“I would have never thought that, but I just tell them to trust in God, and The Salvation Army. They’ll help you get on your feet, get on track,” said Portier.

Clothes, shoes and other goods are dropped off at The Salvation Army when they’re not wanted anymore. Through our stores, they become repurposed and needed again by someone else.

Fay Portier came to The Salvation Army not knowing if his life would ever be of use to anyone. The Lord has given him a new purpose, and he is definitely needed. He’s needed to provide a positive influence in the lives of the many people he comes in contact with each week.