Savor the Flavor draws crowds

Bishop Joseph Kopacz visits with the sisters of the Excel Center in Morton.

Gwen Bouie-Haynes (left) program director of the Domestic Violence Services Center of Catholic Charities talks with Constance Slaughter-Harvey (right) and Sister Mary Anne Poeschl.

Marta Charria of Brandon samples the desserts donated by Panadería Mexico, Pastelería Lupita and other pastry shops in the Jackson area.

St. Richard parishioner Mary Louise Jones (left) and others enjoy the food and fellowship at Hal & Mal’s Restaurant. More than 300 attended the event on Feb. 20. (Photos by Elsa Baughman).

By Elsa Baughman
JACKSON – Hundreds braved a torrential downpour to enjoy the first Savor the Flavor event at Hal & Mal’s restaurant Thursday, Feb. 20, from 6 – 9 p.m., to raise money for the Migrant Support Center, formerly known as the Immigration Clinic.
Twenty-three area restaurants participated with donations of a variety of ethnic dishes, including desserts.

Tere Turner, director of the Migrant Support Center, said they were very glad, even surprised, by the number of people who attended the event. “The rain didn’t help and kept some from coming but those who attended had a good time,” she said.

Greg Patin, executive director of Catholic Charities, said the support was fantastic.“We are so grateful to the restaurants that provided the variety of cuisine for the evening and the volunteers who helped put on the event,” he said. “Catholic Charities Migrant Support Center helps to “welcome the stranger” to our land and the community joined us in that effort at Savor the Flavor.”

Sister Camilla Hemann, program director of the Excel Community and Learning Center, came from Morton with Sisters Eileen Hauswald, Rita Goedken and Pat Clement. She said she was impressed with all the people who attended and the companies that donated food for the support of a good cause. “It was nice to meet a lot of different people gathered there, especially the new bishop,” she said.

Tito Echiburu, also from Morton, said the people there are the kind that care about helping society, and that it felt good to be in that environment. “I thought the event was well worth the money … the food was delicious, abundant and great variety,” he said.
Entertainment was provided by Jackson St. Richard Parish’s Arthur Jones and the Lucky Hands Blue Band.

Proceeds from the event benefit the center which offers services and advocates for the immigrant community of the Diocese of Jackson. “The center specializes in providing family-based immigration services to individuals and their families who are seeking legal status in the United States,” explained Monique Davis, director of Parish Based Ministries for Catholic Charities.

According to Turner, the main responsibility of the center is to ensure that members of the immigrant community are aware of their rights and responsibilities as guests, alien residents, or citizens of the United States.

The center, which opened in 2002, also aims to educate the general population about the immigrant community in order to promote understanding, acceptance, and protection of immigrant rights, said Turner.

“The Migrant Support Center was previously funded by a three-year grant which has come to the end of its term,” said Davis. “The support center is seeking new sources for funding, while using events such as this one to fill the gap and raise awareness of what it does.
“We are humbled and, by the support of the community and hopeful, that we can continue to provide services to this vulnerable and often misunderstood community,” said Davis.

Michael Thomas, development director, said Catholic Charities noted that the crowd of more than 300 was an unexpected thrill since this was the inaugural Savor the Flavor.
Thomas said the leftover food was donated to two foods banks in the Jackson area.