Paula Souhlas remembers the gentleman who came knocking on the door of the Covington Food Bank one day.
“I told him we were closed, but he started crying,” she said. All he had left in his pantry, he told her, was one can of tuna.
The gentleman had quit his job to care for his father, who had recently died. The man then spent his remaining money on funeral expenses. He had nothing left to buy the basics.
Souhlas, the Food Bank’s development director, let him in, of course, and gave him food. That’s what the Food Bank does — it feeds people caught in tough times.
“We provide a food safety net to more than 600 families who come twice a month to pick up food,” she said. “We provide a 30-pound box of food and a lagniappe box with bread, pastries and produce.”
This time of year, many schools, clubs and businesses help stock the Food Bank’s shelves with Christmas food drives. In fact, Souhlas said, St. Paul’s School in Covington provided 18,000 pounds of food, and Our Lady of the Lake in Mandeville nearly filled a tractor-trailer full of food.
The generosity is astounding, she said, and much appreciated. However, it doesn’t go as far as you would think.
“That food was gone in a week,” she said. There is a constant need.
“It is a totally different dynamic today than five years ago,” Souhlas said. “The reasons they come to us are as diverse as the families themselves.”
There are parents who had to quit work to care for a sick child or elderly parent, and there are people who have lost jobs and have nowhere to turn.
“Many families are hurting,” she said. “Nobody wants to come to the Food Bank and wait in line for food. They come because they have to.”
The Food Bank, which serves St. Tammany, Washington and Tangipahoa parishes, depends a great deal on community donations.
Second Harvest, an agency of Feeding America, provides 20 to 25 percent of the food to the Food Bank.
“The rest comes from schools, businesses and church food drives, as well as monetary donations,” Souhlas said. And, she emphasized, “Hunger doesn’t end with the holidays.”
She is hoping that businesses, schools, clubs and churches will keep up the generous spirit in the new year, hosting food drives and even providing monetary donations.
Donations can be made online at http://www.covington
And, just in case you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping, Souhlas has an idea: “If you are trying to buy for someone who has it all, we have ‘honor cards’ ”
that will acknowledge a donation made in someone’s name. The Food Bank also offers memorial cards.
For more information on food drives or donations as well as volunteer opportunities such as client registration, call Paula Souhlas at (985) 893-3003, Ext. 105.
The Food Bank also runs a thrift store (“the best-kept secret in town”) and dental clinic for the working poor. It is located at 840 N. Columbia St., Covington.
Karen Baker writes about St. Tammany Parish happenings. Email her at sliceoftammany