On that Sunday The Welcome House, which has recently been renovated into quite possibly the finest homeless shelter in the state, held the first mass in its recently constructed church.
There was a standing room only crowd in attendance to celebrate the mass which was led by Pastor Sigmund Richard. . Kibodeaux, who has recently been having health problems, was in attendance.
“Awesome! That’s the only way I can put it,” said Theresa Bellow, who along with her husband A.J. manages the facility. “God is amazing. From where we came from to where we are now is simply unbelievable.”
“It was great,” echoed resident Willary Charles. “It was full of people with cars lined up down the street on both sides.”
The renovation of The Welcome House began as an idea by the Crowley Rotary Club’s Joe Freeland, who joked once that “they thought I was crazy” when he presented it to the club. What ensued was a team effort by the club, donations of money and time from area citizens and organizations (including church groups from Arkansas who came down to help with the construction) and, as nearly all the residents put it, ‘blessings from the Lord.’
The living quarters, which hold 50 people, has been completed for nearly a year and the next step was building a church for the residents, each of whom Rev. Kibodeaux tries to save from a life on the streets by turning their lives to the Lord.
One would be hard pressed to find a church as impressive at any shelter in the country. It contains a children’s playroom to keep youngsters occupied during services, a large baptismal tub as well as several items from the old Welcome House church (the pews, the large wooden cross and the podium) that were obviously placed inside for nostalgic, sentimental reasons.
“Just when you walked inside you felt the Holy Spirit,” said resident Stacy Guidry. “So many people turned out...it was just fantastic.”
“It was wonderful to see the church and all the people that showed up,” said Rebecca Naquin. “It gives you a lot of hope for the future. I felt so at peace.”
As for Rev. Roy Kibodeaux, who had been hospitalized with pneumonia and has been weakened for some time, Sunday’s events seemed to give him strength.
“It was super,” he said. “I was knocked down for a while but I’m feeling good today. The people of this community have really come together for us. We are still in need of donations and we still have a lot of work to do but I feel confident that we will continue to move forward.”