WALKER — Sometimes even a place known for helping others requires a little assistance, too.
That’s why the Friendship Community Benefit Center, operated by a nonprofit organization created to raise money for those in need through the sale of jambalaya, pastalaya and spaghetti meals, hosted a benefit for itself Saturday.
The annual fundraiser will help cover maintenance costs at the benefit center’s facility near the intersection of La. 447 and La. 1019 in Walker, said Paul Kelly, president of the Friendship Community Benefit Center.
Kelly said he hoped to raise about $2,000 at Saturday’s fundraiser to buy propane, make repairs to the facility’s walk-in cooler and other surprise costs that pop up throughout the year.
“We have to raise a little bit to keep our maintenance up,” Kelly said.
The idea behind holding benefits for people whose homes burn or who suffer from serious illness came around 40 years ago, Kelly said, but the Friendship Community Benefit Center wasn’t built and registered as a nonprofit organization until 1991.
Volunteers come as early as 6 a.m. to the facility to cook jambalaya, pastalaya and spaghetti and then stay until 1:30 p.m. or so to sell the meals for $6 each under a covered drive-through.
Since 1991, the center has hosted at least two benefits each month at the facility, raising money for local community members facing dire financial problems.
“The medical expenses are unreal,” volunteer Gail Graham said. “And they see no way out.”
The Friendship Community Benefit Center helped raise thousands of dollars for the late father of siblings Lynn Forte and Cecil Street nearly two decades ago, and the pair has volunteered their time ever since.
“There’s no way we could have made it without this,” said Forte, adding the plated lunch fundraiser paid of all their father’s expensive medical bills and covered six years of their mother’s home insurance.
Sandra Jeter volunteers her time with the Friendship Community Benefit Center because the nonprofit raised money for her son Garrett Lott, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor 18 years ago.
“It’s my place to help them out, too,” Jeter said.
Strange weather, including cloudy skies with a strong breeze, didn’t deter locals from supporting the benefit Saturday.
“We do better when it rains than when it shines,” Kelly said. “I guess people can’t get out and cook on their own.”
Husband and wife Kim and Cathy Goetzmann purchased two plates of jambalaya.
The couple, who moved to Watson from Baton Rouge after Hurricane Gustav in 2008, said they enjoyed contributing to the center.
“We like to support the community however we can,” Cathy Goetzmann said.
The nonprofit’s delicious food is an added benefit.
“They make great jambalaya, too,” Kim Goetzmann said.