The Meraux Foundation donated $5,000 toward the opening and hosts the Blues, Brews and BBQ in the Parish to support the community center.
The Community Center of St. Bernard recently reopened at a new location with a new mission – to bring the community back. A recent ribbon-cutting ceremony at its new Arabi location signaled a new era for the facility.
Originally opened after Hurricane Katrina in Old Arabi, the Community Center of St. Bernard struggled in recent years for funding and local support, eventually closing its doors last year.
Pamela Wegener Griffith, the chairperson for the center’s new volunteer board, said a new location in Arabi on Patricia Street and a new approach are already paying off.
“Before we even officially opened, we were able to give Thanksgiving baskets to over 20 needy families through the generosity of students and faculty at Nunez Community College and N. P. Trist Middle school,” she said. “With assistance from Gethsemane Lutheran Church and Andrew Jackson Middle School, the center was also able to provide food and presents for other needy families at Christmas time.”
Griffith said getting the community to “buy in” has been instrumental.
“The overall kindness, encouragement, and guidance that the center has received from our community in general, helped us to be able to re-open the center,” she said.
Feeding families and promoting literacy are the center’s two main areas of focus, but Griffith said it will offer other services.
“We are continuing our commitment to helping the hungry in St. Bernard Parish by being a Second Harvest food distribution site,” she said. “We are also working on a food program to be implemented in the schools to replace the ‘Back-Pack’ program, with Second Harvest and the St. Bernard Parish School Board as well as a program for seniors.”
Other projects in the works are re-establishing a computer lab and offering services like helping people fill out important documents. The center also hopes to provide assistance with basic literacy skills.
The center will also offer free tax assistance through the VITA program, administered by the Loyola School of Law. Free tax preparation will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, on March 11, 18 and 25 and April 1.
A Health and Wellness Series will be offered on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. during March. The series will include information about physical and mental health.
The center will also host a fundraising Celebrity Variety Show on Friday, March 31 at the Docville Farm in Violet. Griffith said live music and comedy will be part of the fun and it promises “to be a good time for a great cause and another example of the outpouring of community support.”
Griffith said she is excited by all of the offerings. She thanked all the community partners who had a hand in getting the center up and running.
“We are really grateful to The Meraux Foundation and the Blues, Brews and BBQ in the Parish committee,” she said. “We have been able to sustain ourselves with the proceeds from that festival.”
She also gave credit to the Archdiocese of New Orleans and Fr. Lance Campo for help in securing the facility; Second Harvest and Charles Pierre for the support and advice as the center moved toward reopening, and the center’s previous board and staff.
“They are an integral part of our re-establishment,” she said.
Griffith also thanked her current board — Kim Melerine Nunez, Elois Brooks, David Huff, Ann Juneau, Faith Moran, Dennis Bradley, Eva Jaber, and interim director, Sherry Nunez.
“It’s been a long year, there have been lots of changes and we are excited to be moving forward,” Griffith said. “None of it could not have happened without our board, (which) is dedicated to our mission; our community partners, who advised and encouraged us; our community leaders who have supported us; and our community, which has been very accepting of the new face of the community center and are anxious to get involved.”
The Community of St. Bernard is located at 6800 Patricia Street in Arabi.