Loving Our Community’s Children (LOCC) began as a foster closer for Ascension Parish, modeled after another in Walker, Louisiana. Jeff Soper and his wife, Sheri, joined LOCC themselves when the founder, their adopted daughter’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), asked Sheri to participate in the organization’s initial development. Jeff was then recommended to the board due to his experience in management with Entergy and his Business Management degree from UNO.
Since the couple had been actively fostering children in Ascension Parish since 2014, LOCC was right up their alley. In 2020, LOCC officially began as a project of Leadership Ascension and operated as a foster closet like The Foster Village (now The Family Village) in Walker. Sinead Holleran and Candace Melancon were originally participants in the Leadership Ascension class of 2020 which spearheaded the project and now serve on the LOCC Board of Directors.
However, it soon became apparent that many families inside and outside of foster care coils benefit from the services provided by both organizations, so a common mission statement was created: “Creating a bridge between the community and children in need, who have been impacted by a traumatic experience while laying a foundation for their journey to healing by providing support and essentials.”
To provide for those in need, Loving our Community’s Children doesn’t have a formal application process, but operates via word-of-mouth through mandated reporters, past customers, and through social media posts. Oftentimes, they will receive requests through their website or Facebook page. Volunteers then assist with setting up appointments so that those in need can visit their “shopping room” to get the items they need.
“On several occasions, we are contacted by a DCFS caseworker attempting to keep children with their family,” says Soper. “LOCC has provided beds and other essentials to families who step up to take in kinship who have been placed in foster care or to assist a birth family being reunited with their children.”
As for community outreach, in October the organization held its 3rd annual Sweater Weather Get Together event that was hosted by the First Baptist Church and had 137 pre-registered families attend, effectively helping 350 children. This event, held each Fall, allows LOCC to clear out excess inventory prior to the winter months. This inventory includes new and gently used clothing, toys, baby items, and other essentials.
Offloaded supplies are given to families in need of these items who may be experiencing a difficult financial period. This event runs on the good faith of others, with the only request being that families only take what they need so other families can benefit from this generosity.
With all this wild success, expansion to help assist more families and children is definitely in the works. At the moment, LOCC works as a redistributor for donations, but they want to become a more fluid and easily accessible resource for the community. Their vision is to find a larger, low-cost or donated facility in Ascension Parish to provide approximately 2,500 square feet of climate-controlled space to set up a few small offices and potentially serve as a one-stop shop for all their provided resources, a safe meeting place for separate families, facilitated counseling sessions, and information dissemination points.
If you would like to get involved with Loving Our Community’s Children, there are plenty of ways to donate your time and efforts. First and foremost, since the organization is fully funded through donations, giving the gift of new and gently used clothing and essential items like items such as diapers and pull-ups of all sizes, socks, underwear, and pajamas is always appreciated. Additionally, monetary donations allow the organization to provide needed essentials that are not routinely donated by the community.
In terms of donating your time, there are three volunteer opportunities to take advantage of including becoming a Lead Volunteer who serves as the backbone of the organization and helps lead and coordinate events, volunteer days, and periodic meetings. Shopping Volunteers assist families at the LOCC facility by helping them obtain needed items and Workday Volunteers provide assistance with larger projects like events, sorting and organization of donations, maintenance and upkeep of the property, and more.
All in all, Loving Our Community’s Children functions on the want to love and support the foster community. In that regard, Soper has one more request of the community:
“As a foster parent, I recognize the need for more support for the foster community, which includes families taking in kinship placements as well as teens aging out of the foster system,” he shares. “LOCC is developing a list of resources for such needs and welcomes input from the community. If you are part of an organization or business that can provide no or low-cost resources such as mental health, childcare, housing, transportation, budgeting education, etc. for people in need, we’d love to add you to our resource list.”
If this is something you believe you can assist with, get started by contacting LOCC today at (225) 255-0533 or visit their website, loccascension.org.