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Shreveport nonprofit celebrates its 125-year history

Kate Archer Kent

A Shreveport nonprofit counseling agency is recognizing its 125 years in existence, and opening up its annual meeting to the public Tuesday. The Center for Families began as the Genevieve Orphanage in 1889. Today, it provides mental health services to more than 860 people a year, according to The Center for Families CEO Laura Brucia Hamm. She said the agency strives to be transparent and this annual meeting will be an opportunity to tell its story.

“We have begun to really strategically and reflectively look at our outcomes and pay attention to who are our consumers and why are they here? And, how are helping them?" Hamm said. "We're  so excited about that that we want to share that with the public. It’s something we probably should have started a long time ago.”

Hamm said her agency has learned to adapt over the generations to best serve the community’s needs. First, it was as an orphanage and group home. Then, in the 1960s, it evolved to offer preschool and day care. Today, the focus is on a wide spectrum of mental health services that can begin as early as age three. Hamm said The Center for Families is working to address a problem that is real and growing, child sex trafficking.

“We started out working with bringing children off the streets in one capacity. Today, we want to bring them off of the streets again for being sexually exploited, for being sold in ways we’d never want our own flesh and blood to experience," Hamm said.

The Center for Families is working closely with area law enforcement personnel and other social service agencies to address the issue, according to Hamm, and one day the goal is to establish a safe house for these children.

Tuesday's annual meeting begins at 8 a.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bossier City. Hamm is also collecting oral histories and photos for a book project on the Genevieve Orphanage that burned down in the late 1950s.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.
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