“Someone can be doing terrible things and still be a victim
…can have done wrong and still deserve help.”
Brother Giovanni Reid, OFM, age 71, has been serving as the Executive Director of the expansive Christian Service Program in Shreveport, Louisiana for 14 years. That is challenging work.
The Christian Service Program has four main programs. Hospitality House is their soup kitchen. That’s for everyday meeting of human hunger. The Transitional Living program provides separate housing for 15 men and 15 women. People who reside there may be struggling with addictions, recently released from prison or a hospital. They could be dealing with mental illness. Clients can stay there up to three years while working on the impediments to their independence. Each has a case manager. Right now there is no waiting list. Br. Dan Barrett and Br. Andrew Stettler oversee the day to day operations.
At the Clothing Store, there is no charge and people can choose items that they like. The Learning Center prepares people for job search and work. The continuum of services helps the clients flow through the system; building skills and confidence until they are ready to leave the protective shelter of the Christian Service Program.
When Br. Giovanni finishes his day, he can take comfort in some of the more exciting things his team has accomplished. There are twelve staff and six volunteers to keep the projects moving. Revving up a telethon in their town of 218,000 for the benefit of their ministries was no small task. The cable-TV fund raising effort gleaned $83,000 in 2013 and money is still coming in. “We have honorable donors who keep their promises to donate to our projects. It’s always been like that,” he noted.
The complex needs of this population require tenacity and tenderness. Giovanni has both. His commitment is complicated somewhat with chronic leg pain similar to sciatica which is the legacy of some complicated back surgery.
A Golden Jubilarian, Brother Giovanni hails from St. Bernard, a suburb of Cincinnati. He attended Purcell High School and is a transplant to Louisiana.
Even with his obstinate leg causing him so much discomfort and his unhealed back, Giovanni tries to steal away to his wood working tools and “build something.” If he can’t make something new, “fixing something” will suffice.
A recent back surgery has him at home recuperating while continuing to do what he can from his computer. Br. Andrew and Br. Dan are doing their best to help wherever possible.
Tonight, Br. Dan will stand in for Br. Gio when he accepts the Human Rights Award from Church Women United during its annual meeting at the First Presbyterian Church in Shreveport, LA. This award to the Christian Service Program is for their humanitarian efforts in the community.
Joanne M. Queenan
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