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LightHouse in Shreveport continues to brighten children's lives

Kate Archer Kent

A program that aims to break the cycle of poverty in Shreveport and Bossier City’s poorest neighborhoods is celebrating 25 years of carrying out its mission through Volunteers of America North Louisiana.

The LightHouse offers after-school tutoring and mentoring to the most vulnerable children. Community Foundation of North Louisiana executive director Paula Hickman was one of its founders. She recalls when LightHouse was just an idea.

“There were three of us that basically were sitting on my living room floor and my children were toddlers, and they were all running around being crazy and we were in the middle of papers everywhere looking at it and trying to figure out how we would create this entity,” Hickman said.

During the past six months, about 280 volunteers have contributed to LightHouse’s mission, donating 2,400 hours. Chuck Meehan, CEO of Volunteers of America North Louisiana, says 99 percent of children enrolled in LightHouse stay in school, and that’s because the program makes each child matter.

“Every single child -- particularly those living in poverty -- need a caring adult in their life. Many of these children are living with single parents. Many are living with grandparents, frankly,” Meehan said. “It’s got to be one more than that. There’s got to be a caring adult, and that’s what the LightHouse provides.”

Meehan estimates there are 25,000 children living in poverty in Shreveport and Bossier City. The LightHouse model is set to go into three schools. Hickman says the “Communities in Schools” program will be able to reach thousands of children.

“There are only 600 children that are being impacted in the current program. We need to ramp it up in a big way. I think working in partnership with the schools is really the way we will be able to touch many more lives,” Hickman said.

This week, local residents are encouraged to donate an afternoon -- 25 minutes of time -- at one of the LightHouse sites between 3:30 and 5 p.m. to read to a child or help with homework. An open house is set for Tuesday beginning at 5 p.m. at 802 Travis Street.

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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