Several years ago as a member of the Jackson Parish School Board several years ago, Melissa Perry was touched by something that has been a driving force in her life ever since. She was so deeply moved by the knowledge of just how many at-risk and needy children did not have a sound nutritional food program other than what they received at school that she began using her own money to buy food for families.
When the Coronavirus epidemic hit, causing many children to end up being home-schooled Perry, who is now the Quality Manager at Wesrock Inc., remembered those kids and decided that she wanted to do something to help.
“It seemed like every day I would think back on how many children simply wouldn’t get to eat right if it weren’t for what they got at school,” reflected Perry. “I had an idea of what I wanted to do but I knew that I needed help to make it something that would be really beneficial to the children.”
In her mind there was no better place to start than the largest employment center in Jackson Parish. Over the next several days she spoke with Westrock manager Eric Taylor and mill liaison James Bradford about her desire to get the people in the mill involved to which both whole heartedly threw their support behind.
The result was the formation of the Hodge Strong Foundation. For the record the 501c3, non-profit organization is supported by many Hodge mill employees but is not directly affiliated with Westrock and is a separate entity.
Fundraising activities are scheduled to begin in January with the plan being that when school starts back in August the organization, in conjunction with the Northeast Louisiana Food Bank, would begin providing “backpack meals” to the at-risk and needy children of Jackson Parish on the weekends. Additional planned programs are to provide tutoring and college/career mentoring.
“I can’t thank (Mill Manager) Eric (Taylor) and Mr. Bradford enough for lending their support,” said Perry. “I also want to thank Hannah Goleman who has been instrumental in helping us with our logo and graphic designs as well as the Northeast LA Food Bank.”
Perry wants those who decide to contribute to their cause to know that every dollar given will stay in Jackson Parish and go solely toward helping the children who need it. Other than the donations that can be pledged by emailing Perry at firstname.lastname@example.org a spring golf tournament is slated as well as a silent auction to be held.