Bayou Grace and Episcopal Community Services of Louisiana (ECSLA) have partnered to implement the Building Community Resilience through Community Dinners project in the five bayou communities. This project was organized in response to the wide-spread needs of community members in Terrebonne Parish after the BP oil drilling disaster. The aim of the project is to help reduce residents’ stress levels and support community cohesion, by providing a space for connection, fellowship, expression of ideas and concerns, and care for one’s self and one’s neighbors. In 2011, Bayou Grace and ECSLA will work with residents in lower Terrebonne Parish to implement fifteen community dinners.
Community connection is an important factor in community resilience
So far in 2011, Bayou Grace and ECSLA have worked with community leaders in Chauvin, Montegut, Pointe aux Chenes and Dulac to implement three community dinners.
Homemade desserts add something special!
In January, the Montegut/Pointe aux Chenes community dinner was held at the Montegut Recreation Center. Nearly one hundred community residents were treated to music by New Life Ministries and a spaghetti dinner prepared by Ponte aux Chenes Supermarket owner Donna Dupre and served by the Montegut Volunteer Fire Department. Residents were also able to talk with Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet who presented on the state of coastal restoration and protection projects. President Claudet highlighted the Parish’s plans to begin work on Island Road leading to the community of Isles de Jean Charles. Many residents seemed pleased with this announcement and noted this as the highlight of the community dinner along with the food and fellowship.
Community updates are an important part of the community dinners
In February two community dinners took place, one in Dulac and the other in Chauvin. The Dulac Community Center hosted the Dulac community dinner. A wonderful spaghetti was prepared by Dulac Community Center volunteer Angie Phillips. Despite the fact that it was the coldest day of the year and there was a call for freezing rain, forty-five residents attended the dinner. Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District Executive Director Reggie Dupre was scheduled to attend and present on protection projects. Unfortunately, he had to cancel due to a last minute meeting with Senator Mary Landrieu. However, Mercy Family Center presented at the community dinner and informed residents about their new program that also hosts a series of community dinners that integrate psychological services for adolescents and their families. Residents responded that coming together with community was wonderful while also getting information about new services.
Finally in February, Bayou Grace and ECSLA partnered with residents in Chauvin to host a community dinner at the Ward 7 Citizen’s Club. Community resident Kevin Henry prepared a delicious jambalaya for nearly one-hundred residents. Residents also watched “Washing Away: After the Storms”, a documentary that “follows six very different survivors [after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita] as they fight to keep their land, livelihoods and way of life from Washing Away.” This documentary really seemed to hit home with residents, including the discussions about the rising costs of home owners and flood insurance, costs that amount to nearly the same as mortgage payments. Residents said the documentary was “heart-wrenching” and “hard to watch” and “brought back memories [they] don’t want to relive.” At the same time, residents said that the documentary was “informative” and they enjoyed “coming together in fellowship.” Trinity Counseling and Training Center also attended the community dinner with two of their student interns. While residents were completing review forms about the community dinner, Trinity Counseling and Training Center conducted a children’s literacy activity. Each community dinner also had the support and presence of spiritual care leaders through the Episcopal Community Services of Louisiana network. These spiritual care leaders were there to offer support and care to all present at the community dinners.
The Building Community Resilience through Community Dinners project is made possible through a grant from Catholic Charities Spirit of Hope initiative, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Gulf Aid Acadiana, Gulf Relief Foundation, Voice of the Wetlands, For the Bayou, Global Green and St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. These dinners would also not be possible without the generous involvement and support from local businesses and volunteers.
Bayou Grace hopes that this project will continue into the year 2012. If you are a local community member who would like to help with these community dinners, please contact the Bayou Grace office at (985) 594-5350. Also, if you or your organization are interested in donated to the Building Community Resiliency through Community Dinners project, please contact the Bayou Grace office or email us at email@example.com.