Ray Reggie shares about his involvement with the JTRA food bank with us —
RRW: Ray, How long have you been involved with the JTRA?
Ray Reggie: I have been involved with the JTRA since 2002.
RRW: How did you become involved with the JTRA?
Ray Reggie: In 2002, I was watching Fox8 news and seasoned news anchor Kim Holden ran a story about this woman who was giving food away from her garage in New Orleans East. As she began helping more and more people she began to get pressure from the neighbors to shut it down. I called the news anchor and asked her for a copy of the report. When I received a copy of the report I went directly to Troy Duhon, President of Premier Automotive Group and told him I thought we should donate space to JTRA.
Premier Automotive Group agreed and I called Debra South and told her what we wanted to do. She thought someone was playing a joke on her at first because of my name and she said, “What’s your name, Ray Reggie? Is that a real name? Is this a joke?” I told her, “Ms. South, We want to donate space for you to run your food bank.” After a bit more convincing that my name was Raymond Reggie and that I was for real, I promised her that I was Ray Reggie and I really was going to help her.
Troy and I called New Orleans City Council member Cynthia Willard-Lewis, an advocate for JTRA and the city council member for New Orleans East and she met us at the building space – the new home for JTRA. Kim Holden came back out and filmed the touching moment – the moment when Troy and I met Debra South, a wonderful lady with a huge heart and a love for God! I have been involved ever since.
RRW: What led you to the point of becoming the Chairman of the Board?
Ray Reggie: The Board under the direction of Debra South Jones, the founder and executive director asked me to take a leadership role and voted me in my position. I must say, I am very honored to be the Chairman; I am also very humbled and remember that the real success of JTRA is because of Debra South Jones and her wonderful, dedicated team of employees and volunteers.
RRW: What are some of the accomplishments that you have seen since you have been involved?
Ray Reggie: Since I have began my time with JTRA, we recruited a very dedicated and well rounded board of directors. We are working diligently to secure a larger facility to house the food bank that will also provide a hot meals program and a life skills program. The board, with the help of Debra South Jones and Betty Thomas, are developing on on-site training program. This program will train individuals a much need skill set, housekeeping and bell services for the hospitality industry. We plan to have a model “hotel room and bath” in our new facility to give hands on training.
This training program will allow us to take under and unemployed people who really want to work and teach them a skill set and then help them get a job at a local hotel. With tourism being the number one industry in New Orleans, the board felt that we should dedicate our focus to teaching housekeeping and bell services that will provide jobs for these people after they learn the skills needed. Bell men and women are in short supply in New Orleans. We are opening a new 5 star hotel in the fall and will have an even more increased demand for maids, housekeepers and bellmen/women.
Our board has also been successful in securing additional funding sources to run JTRA.
RRW: What kind of problems are you facing today with the JTRA?
Ray Reggie: We face a few challenges at JTRA. We need more food, a larger facility, more volunteers and funding partners.
Food – We get an 18 wheeler of food every Monday – which is completely distributed by Thursday, sometimes we run out of food before Thursday, so we can always use more non perishable food items.
Facility– We need a building that we can build out for our training programs with a larger kitchen for a hot meal program
Volunteers – We can always use more volunteers to help make the food baskets and it’s nice if we have volunteers to help carry the food baskets for the patrons. The boxes weigh a lot and so many people have to struggle to carry the box to their car or to the bus stop. We could use some teenagers over the summer who want to get a work out carrying the food boxes, without having to pay for a gym membership!
Funding – Our sponsorship and grant money has been reduced because of the economy. We have been blessed with additional sources of funding, but to provide the hot meals and to start our life skills programs we need the support of many. We are looking for partners who will commit to a $100 a month. We need these partners to learn more about JTRA, come out and see what we do and how we do it and then financially support us.
RRW: What can people do to support the JTRA?
Ray Reggie: The JTRA is happy to receive any support that they can whether it is in the form of volunteering, donating non-perishable food items or by simply making a donation.
RRW: How can people find out more about JTRA?
Ray Reggie: Find out more about the JTRA by going to our website at http://www.JTRA.org. You will see us in action!
You can also make a secure donation on our site. I also would encourage people to come out and volunteer. Come help us for a few hours. Bring your kids – let them see how fortunate they are at their home. They will learn to appreciate a full pantry and learn not to waste. My children are regular volunteers at JTRA and they leave feeling fulfilled because they can see that they have done something good, something to help someone else. They also have learned to have a respect for those that don’t have enough to eat and they don’t waste food.
RRW: What can people in other cities do to help their local food banks?
The biggest thing that people can do is to get involved! Go volunteer a few hours a week! Your help is always needed!
You can also buy a few bags of rice, beans or canned goods and drop them off at a local food bank. A cash (tax deductable) donation is very helpful, especially during these times. Believe me, anything that you can do to help, no matter how small will mean a great deal to a hungry person.