Baptist Friendship House has stood as a beacon of hope in the heart of New Orleans for 75 years. For the past 20-plus years, Kay Bennett has played a key role in sharing that hope with area residents in need.
“What keeps me motivated is the fulfillment of watching God work miracles in people’s lives,” said Bennett, who has served as Friendship House’s executive director since 1997.
‘Alive and vibrant’
The ministry center, which first opened its doors in 1944, has operated from its current location a few blocks from New Orleans’ famed French Quarter since 1947.
“Over the years, the different ministries have kind of changed at Friendship House to meet the needs that are the greatest in our city,” Bennett said. “That’s kept it alive and vibrant as it has changed.”
As Baptist Friendship House marked its 75th anniversary this year, current ministries include aiding the homeless with such basic necessities as food, showers and clothing; transitional housing for women, including mothers with their children; and day programs such as literacy, English as a Second Language, job readiness training and a community Bible study.
Staff members also offer practical assistance to human trafficking survivors, ranging from providing temporary housing or connecting survivors with a safe house to arranging for involvement in long-term treatment programs or transportation back home.
Friendship House also partners with National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) to provide Christian Women’s Job Corps and WorldCrafts ministries, and with the North American Mission Board in providing thousands of backpacks filled with a variety of items for schoolchildren, the homeless and those escaping human trafficking.
The ministry’s impact comes from introducing women to Jesus, Bennett said.
“You can see someone that is at the bottom that may be addicted and homeless and on the street, and you realize when they come through the door that you can’t change that person but you do know that Jesus can work in their lives,” she said. “He can melt their hearts and bring healing and you can see them just totally turn their lives around and change. It is so fulfilling to watch how He works and changes them.
“It’s just really cool to me to be able to be in a setting that has been here for so long because it’s like a lighthouse in the city,” she said. “New Orleans is known as the city that care forgot, but here at Friendship House, we try to put a little bit of concern and care and help and hope back in our people.”
Friendship House’s various ministries focus on clients’ physical, emotional and spiritual needs, and the center invites volunteers to come and help.
Volunteer opportunities range from helping pack hygiene kits and snack packs or preparing meals for Bible studies to donating food and clothing or helping staff with annual events such as the Back to School Bash and Fall Festival.
‘We don’t judge people’
Bennett said Baptist Friendship House’s influence and impact continue because of the love staff and volunteers show each person who comes through the door.
“I’m just thankful that here at Friendship House, we don’t judge people. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what you’ve done,” Bennett said. “We’re to be Jesus to others and treat them with respect and treat them like Jesus treats all of us. He loves us no matter what.”
To learn more about Baptist Friendship House, call 504-949-4469 or email email@example.com.