The newly created Webster Parish Police Jury Community Services Committee met for the first time Tuesday.
Board chair Jerri Lee said the jury needs to take a more active role in oversight as well as learning what the office is about.
“The mission statement of the Webster Parish Office of Community Services, the main thing is they’re the helping hands of the parish,” she said. “We have the ability to reach all segments of the parish and to try to help these individuals that we serve.”
The mission statement is: “To create and maintain programs to improve quality of life for all residents of the parish.”
Programs include Section 8 Housing, public transportation, energy assistance, Head Start, home daycare food and food assistance.
Lee gave a brief description of each program and how each one helps the parish.
She encouraged jurors to visit the five Head Start sites in Webster and Claiborne parishes.
“You need to see the good that we are doing, the minds that we are affecting and see how they do when they get into the public school system,” she said. “We have these children ready to go, and it’s just as we said, it’s a head start.”
In the home daycare food program, caregivers who keep children in their home could be eligible to receive food assistance, she said.
Webster OCS employs 89 people, from office staff to bus drivers. There are 18 members of the board of directors.
Executive Director Mary Whitaker gave the police jury her monthly report during their regular meeting Tuesday.
For the month of December, through the energy assistance program, OCS was able to serve more than 67 families at a total of about $25,000. For 2016, they assisted 958 families, for a total of about $360,000 in utility assistance.
In their food assistance program, they served 531 meals and boxes of food to low-income seniors in January.
“We provided over 30,000 meals for a daily average of about 611 children,” she said, adding this includes Webster, Caddo, Bossier and Claiborne parishes.
In the transportation program for medical assistance, such as doctors’ appointments, they transported more than 111 citizens in December 2016, she said. For the residents going to work and other places, they transported 185 residents, for a total of 2,000 trips.
“We represent the poor, the private and the public,” Lee said. “There are three jurors on the board that comprise the executive committee, and we have four of our jurors serving on the executive committee.”
She also talked about the annual governance conference where jurors are taught the various ways to govern.
“We’re going to learn together about what our responsibilities are, and we’re going to be evaluating the effectiveness of our role with the Office of Community Services,” she said.
Jury President Jim Bonsall added his thoughts regarding the committee, saying it would likely take on a life of its own.
“I believe it’s going to be good for OCS and for the police jury too,” he said.