(Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Saturday, October 05, 2013 6:06 PM
Twelve years ago, Sally Foret, her late husband, Dr. John Foret, and George Paret organized a ‘‘Clean Out the Freezer and Pantry Day’’ to benefit Abraham’s Tent, a local non-profit organization that’s mission is to provide food for the poor and hungry in Lake Charles every day of the year.
This year’s event is scheduled 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, in the parking lot of Gordon’s Drug Store, 2716 Lake St.
Foret and Paret talked with the American Press about the initiative, sponsored by the Sportsmen for the Hungry organization.
American Press: How long has the food drive been going on?
Foret: 2001 was the first year. That’s when we were at a football game and John and I saw at LSU that Baton Rouge was doing this and we said, ‘‘Wow, we can do this.’’
So we came home and talked about it with George and Mayor Randy Roach was very helpful, too. We did it at the Civic Center the first few years.
It’s been a yearly event after that?
Paret: Except after (Hurricane) Rita.
Foret: Two years we actually missed, in 2005 and 2006.
When you first held it, were you surprised by the volume that people were willing to donate?
Paret: I was. Weren’t you, at first? We’ve gone from 500 pounds to tons of donated food, literally of just meat, protein, not counting dried goods. We probably did a ton-and-a-half, maybe more (last year).
Foret: From experience with hunters, we know that hunters who like to hunt have a lot of food in the freezers and they can’t always eat it all. Some goes to waste. And that’s what is awful — to have food go to waste.
Paret: In hunting season, a lot of them have deer leases and you’ve got to go shoot so many deer. So here they’ve got this 300 or 400 pounds of deer sausage that they’ve got to use for the next season. We’ve had shrimp, oysters, crawfish tails, red snapper, wahoo, tuna, gourmet food (donated) ...
Foret: Venison, elk, bison.
Paret: We’re talking gourmet food.
Foret: And it’s good food, it’s not just junk. And it’s good protein that (Abraham’s Tent Executive Director) Pearl (Cole) can use because she needs protein. You can make stews and gumbos and to make it go a long way. It can be stretched.
Paret: And some of the kids — what do they call it? — apostolic hours, they will bring food like from the school in Bell City, they will bring us 300 or 400 pounds of rice because some of them are rice farmers and they will bring 50-pound bags. You can stretch a gumbo a long way.
Every year the donations have gone to Abraham’s Tent?
Foret: Right. We knew that she (Cole) fed so many people every day, at least 300 every day. We knew that she was in need and that she was cooking every day, not just giving it out in bags. So she was the one that we thought could use this. We talked to her and she said, ‘‘Definitely.” She was very excited.
We collect from 1 to 4 (p.m.) and we bring it right over there. And she has a team that is ready and they get it out of the coolers and the trucks and they separate it out and put it right in the freezer.
Paret: I’ve got people that have talked to me recently and I’m going to start collecting before the day. I’ve got freezers here that I can put stuff in.
Foret: Zeb Johnson has built these boxes for Barbe High School’s barbecue and they are insulated boxes. He is so generous. Every year we pick up those and that’s what we fill up and we haul it all over.
Paret: Some times you have to make a trip at 2:30 and come back and redo them. It’s really phenomenal.
Foret: And it’s very easy for people. They don’t have to get out of their car, they just drive thru. We have people that help. They unload and that’s it. We make it very easy for people.
Is this tax deductible?
Paret: Yes. I did not know this but a friend of mine said I don’t know how you can put a figure on it, but you can. When we were in Canada last year, we went hunting and all these ducks and geese that we killed were donated to a homeless shelter for the city of Winnipeg. They said you could donate and I didn’t have the figure, but whatever that price is, say if you shoot over your limit for ducks, they charge you $50 for every duck that you shoot over your limit so that’s the value of that duck. So if you give 20 ducks and geese, that’s the value you get to cut deduct from your taxes. I don’t know if Pearl needs to get us some tax sheets, but I know we were able to do some — it wasn’t a lot — but it was 400 or 500 bucks. ...
Well, if the hunters have a CPA doing their taxes, they can at least inquire. ...
One of the misconceptions is that when you say hunters cleaning out their freezers, the general public thinks, ‘‘I don’t have anything.’’ But you basically accept anything, right? It’s not just meat, right?
Paret: Dry goods. A lot of rice farmers will bring 50-pound bags. Last year, two bags fell off the truck right going down Lake Street. They picked up two bags and brought the two rice bags that were going to the port.
Foret: I guess initially we were aiming toward the hunters because they have this surplus in their freezer that we wanted to give them an avenue to donate. But everybody wants to be involved and we want everybody to be involved, so you can donate chickens, turkeys, beef, any thing ...
Paret: Canned goods.
Foret: Then we said anything ...
Paret: Any non-perishable.
Foret: So we asked Miss Pearl, ‘‘What do you need?’’. That’s what she said, ‘‘Anything’’. Boxed food. Cooking oil. Seasonings. Everything. We have an area where we collect that and then we put the frozen things in the cooler, and we’re very happy for everybody to participate.
Have y’all ever put a dollar amount either yearly or what has been donated over the past 12 years?
Foret: Miss Pearl might be able to tell you. This is our 11th year. In ’05 it was after the hurricane. And in ’06, we figured nobody got to hunt in ’05.
Paret: Easily over a $100,000. Easily. And that’s being very conservative.
That’s an amazing figure considering that it’s a one-day event once a year. That speaks to Southwest Louisiana’s generosity. And a lot of people don’t want the credit.
Foret: And we call ourselves Sportsmen for the Hungry because we don’t want to say hunters because there are so many fishermen. We’re happy to get fish and everything else.
We work with Hunters for the Hungry and they started this throughout the state and they are doing it all over. There’s a website and a Facebook page too where there’s more information.
How satisfying to the both of you is it to see how it has grown?
Paret: Especially since Sally has worked forever on it.
Foret: It’s great to be able to carry one something that John started. He was such a big sportsmen, hunter and fishermen. He just thought this was great. So to be able to carry this on. His boys come ever year. We have two sons. And they come and participate. And they thing this is just something we have to do.
Are there any other misconceptions out there?
Paret: I don’t think so.
Foret: I think people are getting use to it. I think they look forward to it.
Paret: People talk to me (and ask), ‘‘Are you still doing it?’’
Foret: It’s going to be in October every year.
Paret: Two to three weeks before hunting season starts.
Foret: We want them to clean out their freezer. Then they can work on their blinds.
So people look forward to it and I think they save things for us now. And they are ready to clean it out. Some people will call me and say they are going to be out of town, but I have this I want to donate ...
Paret: But they can drop it off here. I can put it in four freezers here.
Foret: Or they can take it to Miss Pearl at Abraham’s Tent.
So again, it’s 1 to 4?
Foret: Here (Gordon’s Drug Store, 2716 Lake St.) in the parking lot. We set up and they just drive thru.
What ground haven’t we covered?
Paret: Make sure to mention that Abraham’s Tent and Miss Pearl are trying to build a new facility. We can raise money for that. Maybe mention that we will accept donations for their building fund. Make the check to Abraham’s Tent and we can collect it for her.
Foret: And they can always mail it to their address.
Paret: Abraham’s Tent is one of the best things. And Miss Pearl has been doing it forever. ...
Do you have enough help on the receiving end?
Paret: We’re pretty good on that end.
Foret: But if anyone wants to help, we won’t turn them away. ...
It’s a good project and I hope it will always continue. There’s always going to be hunters here and there will always be a need. No one should be hungry in this day and age.