"Laissez les bon temps rouler" to help the hungry

Lawton_Oklahoma is one of the nation's hungriest states.  According to a report from the Oklahoma Task Force on Hunger our state ranks fifth.  But, the Lawton Food Bank is trying to fight that statistic.  This year the are trying something new to raise money to help feed the community.  The Lawton Food Bank's First Annual Mardi Gras Celebration will have dancing, music, and lots of Cajun food.  The party starts Friday, February 1, at the Great Plains Coliseum.

The food bank says party arrangements are right on schedule, and everyone involved says they're really excited.  Over the last year, the food bank has fed almost 14,000 in Lawton alone - now, they need help to keep it up.

Executive Director of the Lawton Food Bank, Jari Mosiman, says all of the proceeds from the celebration fundraiser will help restock the food bank itself.  And, what a better way to do it than by celebrating Mardi Gras.  "No one else in the community really does much for Mardi Gras, so we just thought it would be a way to provide some fun for the people of Lawton, a good time for a good cause - it's a win-win for everybody," she says.

Friday's Bourbon Street Ball is a feast to feed the hungry, and Mosiman says the number of hungry people in Lawton may be in greater numbers than you think.  "I think it's much worse that what people really think.  We just finished compiling our 2007 statistics, and we fed almost 38,000 people last year.  Over 18,000 of those were children," she says.  Since 60% of the food bank's funding comes from donations, they thought this Mardi Gras themed fundraiser would be a great idea.

President of the Benjamin O. Davis High Rise Residents Council, Roberta Simmons, says the food bank helps the people in her complex make ends meet - especially since they are on a very tight budget.  "Having the food from here is a tremendous burden off our shoulders because we are able to get it for free," she says.  Simmons says she thinks the Bourbon Street Ball will help people see the reason behind all the work the food bank does.  "Having this done opens their eyes, and it makes it more important."

Mosiman says she does this for her clients.  "I've grown to love these people," she says.  "So, if there's anything I can do to help them, I'm going to do it - and I'm going to go around and ask other people to help as well, because there is no better cause."

The community has been helping the food bank so much in the past year that it has been able to increase their food service to the elderly.  Instead of every other month, the service for seniors is now available monthly

Tickets are still available for the Lawton Food Bank's Mardi Gras Celebration.  Tickets for the Bourbon Street Ball are $25 and can be purchased until 2 p.m. Friday at the food bank: 1405 SW 20th Street.  The cost for the Cajun feast is $10 for adults and $5 for kids under six.  All proceeds go toward funding the Lawton Food Bank.  For further information please call them at 580-353-7994.

7News Reporter Kenny Scarle